Race and the Apparatus of Disposability

Lecture | November 29 | 5:30-7:30 p.m. | Simon Hall, Goldberg Room, room 297, Berkeley Law

 Center for Race and Gender


5:30pm – Reception
6pm – Lecture

Disposability, a condition written on the body, is a racial project. Populations that stand in the way of the progress of capital accumulation, are targeted for disposability, and relegated to the realm of “sub-humanity.” Processes of disposability enable white Europeanness to prevail. In this paper, I pursue what race has to do with disposability through an examination of the death in custody of a Roma refugee. I show that states have to arrange for the reduction of bodies to human waste and individuals who are a part of the medical and apparatus of disposability (prison guards, medical doctors, psychologists, coroners, lawyers, judges, legislators, and scholars), perform their part in disposability through a professionally and institutionally sustained belief in the lesser value of racialized populations. We can trace the racial along several routes: who is produced as disposable, the infrastructure of disposability, and notably the medical and legal apparatus required to transform the destruction of bodies into authorized killing. In this presentation, I spend most of my time tracing the destruction of the body of a Roma refugee who died in a detention center. I end with comments about the connections that can be drawn between the processes of disposability for refugees, African Americans and Canadians and Indigenous peoples who die at the hands of the police. These connections reveal disposability to be a racial and global process orchestrated by states and sustained by professionals (medical, legal, police).

Sherene H. Razack is Distinguished Professor and the Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in Gender Studies, UCLA. Her books include: Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody (2015); At the Limits of Justice: Women of Colour On Terror (2014, ed. with Suvendrini Perera); States of Race (2011, co-editor with Malinda Smith and Sunera Thobani); Casting Out: Race and the Eviction of Muslims From Western Law and Politics (2008); Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism (2004); Looking White People in the Eye (1998).

Co-sponsored by:
Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative
Canadian Studies
HIFIS Diversity and Democracy Cluster
HIFIS Diversity and Health Disparities Cluster
Native American Studies
The Townsend Center for the Humanities

Produced by the Native/Immigrant/Refugee: Crossings Research Initiative, which is supported by Critical Refugee Studies, HIFIS, Institute of International Studies, Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study, and Social Science Matrix.