GY477      Half Unit
Race and Capitalism in North America

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jessie Speer


This course is available on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Local Economic Development, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Please note that the course is capped at 30 students. 

Course content

This course examines how capitalist development manifests in uneven and racialised ways in the United States and across the broader North American region. It begins with an overview of ideas and debates on race and capitalism, including discussions of:

  • Indigeneity
  • Migration
  • Urban disinvestment
  • Environmental racism
  • Prisons and policing

The remainder of the course looks at key regions of the United States, with a focus on internal peripheries and broader regional connections that reveal the intertwined relationship between race, class and uneven development. Regions examined will include:

  • Gulf Coast
  • Mississippi Delta
  • Rust Belt
  • US-Mexico borderlands
  • Island territories
  • Indigenous lands

By examining US politics in the larger context of North America, this course will untangle the complexities of region-making and the blurred boundaries of the nation state. Using contemporary case studies combined with geographic and decolonial theory, students will examine how the region’s internal peripheries are embedded with a web of colonial and capitalist relations that have broad impacts outside of the US. The course will take place through a weekly seminar-style discussion, during which students will be encouraged to bring their own ideas and interests into the classroom. Assessment will be based on a portfolio of weekly written reading responses as well as a final essay.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will receive feedback on their first three weekly reading responses.

Indicative reading

  • Barra, M. P. (2021). Good sediment: Race and restoration in coastal Louisiana. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(1), 266-282.
  • Cahuas, M. C. (2020). The struggle and (im)possibilities of decolonizing Latin American citizenship practices and politics in Toronto. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 38(2), 209-228.
  • Curley, A., & Smith, S. (2020). Against colonial grounds: Geography on Indigenous lands. Dialogues in Human Geography, 10(1), 37-40.
  • Davis, A. (2011). Women, race, and class. Vintage.
  • Domosh, M. (2015). Practising development at home: Race, gender, and the “development” of the American South. Antipode, 47(4), 915-941.
  • Gilmore, R. W. (2007). Golden gulag: Prisons, surplus, crisis and opposition in globalizing California. University of California Press.
  • Gorman, C. S., & Culcasi, K. (2021). Invasion and colonization: Islamophobia and anti-refugee sentiment in West Virginia. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 39(1), 168-183.
  • McKittrick, K. (2011). On plantations, prisons, and a black sense of place. Social & Cultural Geography, 12(8), 947-963.
  • Pulido, L. (2016). Flint, environmental racism and racial capitalism. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 27(3): 1-16.
  • Woods, C. A. (1998). Development arrested: The blues and plantation power in the Mississippi Delta. Verso.


Essay (50%, 2000 words) and portfolio (50%) in the MT.

Students will submit short reading responses each week. The final portfolio due at the end of the term will include all weekly reading responses. Students will also submit a 2,000 word reflective essay after completing the course.

In submitting their weekly responses as part of their final portfolio, students must demonstrate that they have revised their essays in response to feedback.

Key facts

Department: Geography and Environment

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills