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“Beyond Racism: Anti-Blackness of the Human and the Social”


João Costa Vargas of the University of California, Riverside, will speak as part of the On Mattering: Voices from the Movement and Beyond lecture series sponsored by the Africana Studies Program.

João H. Costa Vargas, a professor of anthropology, examines how antiblackness affects society as a whole through analyses of recent protests against police killings of Black individuals in both the U.S. and Brazil, as well as the everyday dynamics of incarceration, residential segregation, and poverty. Ultimately, he asks why the denial of antiblackness persists, whom this narrative serves, and what political realities it makes possible.

Engaging the long duration and contemporaneity of Black struggles in the diaspora, Brazil and the U.S. in particular, this discussion focuses on the concept of antiblackness as distinct than (and a corrective to) the concept of racism. While the concept of racism (and its related aspects of gender, sexuality, social class, nationality) is often effectively employed to grasp commonalities of oppression nonwhites experience, and galvanize multiracial political blocs, it is ill-suited to both account for the specificity of Black experiences and formulate corresponding political visions. As a foundational algorithm of our modern world—one that informs who belongs to the human family and its protocols of sociality—antiblackness requires specific conceptual and political apparatuses if it is to be effectively addressed.


João Costa Vargas 

The Denial of Antiblackness  (Intro - up to “Oblique Identification...” and Part 1, Chapter 1 “Does Heaven Have a Ghetto?”

On Mattering: Voices from the Movement and Beyond is a new prison studies-centered speaker series open to all within the Vassar community this Fall 2020, but is also designed as a half credit course for students interested in emerging activist knowledges mobilizing in response to state-sanctioned systems of anti-Black violence, especially police brutality and the killings of unarmed black and brown people in the name of public safety. To this end, On Mattering is lifting up perspectives from those working inside and outside the academy to build local and national grassroots-based accountability strategies to curb blatant and bureaucratic forms of white supremacy, decolonize safety, defund the criminalization of poverty, immigration, black, native, and brown lives, and reimagine protocols of public safety across the U.S. and throughout the world.

To attend, please RSVP to Jens Astrup ( with the subject heading “On Mattering Registration: [The title of the talk you are attending]” to receive a registration link.