Landless agricultural workers affiliated with the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) at an occupation in Sergipe, Brazil (Photo by Sebastião Salgado, 1996)

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, capitalism became once again a “signature topic” across the social sciences and humanities. Building on the recent multidisciplinary revival of academic interest in capitalism, the Historical Capitalisms Workshop offers a unique forum for scholars at the University of Chicago and beyond to present and discuss new work on the past, present, and future of global capitalism. The workshop supports scholarship, from across the humanities and social sciences, that treats the capitalist economy as the product of historical social, cultural, and political discourses, ideas, and practices rather than as a universal phenomenon subject to deductive laws. Above all, our aim is to spark and foster critical discussion on historical aspects of economic life under capitalism.

The workshop welcomes a plurality of approaches to understanding and critiquing the history of capitalist political economy. We are especially interested in submissions from, but not limited to, the following fields: literary and cultural criticism, political and social theory, intellectual history, global history, comparative literature, the history of economic life, philosophy, art history, law, environmental history, critical theory, cultural history, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, postcolonial theory, industrial archeology, cultural and biological anthropology, history of science, and all related areas.

Possible paper topics might include:

  •  The history of capitalism as a world system
  • Gender and capitalism
  • Art, literature, and poetics
  • Cultural and literary theory/criticism
  • Postwork imaginaries, automation, unemployment, precarious labor, social death, and poverty
  • Empire, settler colonialism, and the global history of capitalism
  • Slavery, race, and racialization in capitalist development
  • Critiques of capitalist political economy
  • Marx, Marxists, and Marxisms
  • The history of capitalist ideas
  • Climate change, the anthropocene, nonhuman life, and natural disasters
  • Art, taste, and judgment in capitalist societies
  • Digital labor, Silicon Valley, big data, and financial speculation
  • The juridical life of capital
  • Human rights and humanitarian discourse under capitalist rule
  • Affect, trauma, identity, and capitalist domination
  • Migration, expropriation, deportation, and industrial disintegration
  • Capitalism, class warfare, and the carceral sphere
  • Futures without capitalism


For more information on our submission guidelines please read our call for papers.


Faculty Sponsors:

Paul Cheney (History)

Gary Herrigel (Political Science)

Fredrik Albritton Jonsson (History)

Jon Levy (History)


Workshop Coordinator

Nic Johnson