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Elizabeth Engelhardt, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Dr. Shirley Thompson awarded Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship

Posted: March 20, 2014

Dr. Shirley Thompson, Associate Professor of American Studies and Associate Director of the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, has been awarded a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship. These fellowships “assist faculty members in the humanities, broadly understood to include the arts, history, languages, area studies, and zones of such fields as anthropology and geography that bridge the humanities and social sciences, who seek to acquire systematic training outside their own areas of special interest.”

Dr. Thompson says she will use the fellowship to study economics and law more systematically and to confront the theoretical and methodological challenges of her current book project, “No More Auction Block for Me.”

More from Dr. Thompson on her current research:

An interdisciplinary scholar trained in cultural history, literary criticism, critical race theory, and cultural geography, I have been inspired by my previous research on nineteenth century New Orleans, the largest slave market in the U.S. South, to ask broader questions about the gruesome intersections of race, law, and economics. I believe that this avenue of research can illuminate the history of racial disparity and also help us understand wider, seemingly unrelated macro- and microeconomic processes. In the past decade and a half, many historians and cultural studies scholars have detailed the connections among slavery and other capitalist ventures, particularly within the FIRE industries of finance, insurance, and real estate. As an important foundation of local, national, and global economies, the slave market, according to Walter Johnson, Stephanie Smallwood, Ian Baucom and others, has also shaped individual and collective identities in powerful ways. I will explore the accounts and critiques of capitalist logics issuing from the knowledge and experience of those subjects who had functioned as capital—the enslaved and those persons whose blackness has continued to serve as a “badge of slavery” even after formal emancipation. In other words, I aim to ask Karl Marx’s rhetorical figure, the “speaking commodity,” what she knows about the vagaries of the capitalist economy in general and the property relation in particular.

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