Keith Feldman

Research Expertise and Interest

critical theory, U.S. cultural studies, Israel-Palestine, theories of race and ethnicity, comparative diaspora studies, public humanities

Research Description

Keith Feldman is an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies.  At its core, his research program takes cultural studies approaches to theorize and narrate the interface between race, culture, knowledge, and state power. His work explores race as a “master category” (following Omi and Winant) and as a “medium” (following WJT Mitchell) by crafting comparative, relational, intersectional, and transnational analyses situated in localized and embodied contexts. By turning to the domain of culture, he investigates how power differentials become sedimented and contested in narrative, subject and identity formations, memory, and knowledge production.

His first book, A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America (Minnesota, 2015), explores the changeful complexity of race in its historical particularity, its representational density, and its transnational circulation. It asks, how have Israel and Palestine impacted U.S. racial and imperial formations, how have shifting conceptions of race in the U.S. shaped symbolic and material relationships to Israel and Palestine, and how have different cultural forms been used to surface knowledge in the process? He provides a conjunctural analysis of the post-civil rights United States and Israel’s post-1967 occupation of Palestinian lands. He demonstrates how a range of culture workers linked the U.S. state’s combination of political inclusion and intensified projection of violence at home and abroad to shifting dynamics of rule in Israel and Palestine.

A Shadow over Palestine received the 2017 Best Book in Humanities and Cultural Studies (Literary Studies) from the Association for Asian American Studies; and was a Finalist for the American Studies Association’s 2016 Lora Romero First Book Publication prize.

In his current book-length project, “Patterns of Life,” he explores literary and visual configurations of the body in the long war on terror, attending especially to the ways contemporary U.S. visual culture innovates, consolidates, and contests historical processes of racialization. His point of departure is the rise of what the Obama administration has termed “pattern of life” analysis to legitimate the globalized expression of sovereign violence. He asks, what are the contested histories of these heuristics, how do they produce aestheticizations of enmity and raciality, and what kinds of cultural forms have emerged to surface and trouble their common sense?

He is one of the faculty co-organizers of The Color of New Media, a working group sponsored by the Center for Race and Gender and Berkeley Center for New Media that focuses on intersections of critical race theory, gender and women’s studies, and transnational studies with new media studies. With Prof. Abigail De Kosnik, he has co-edited a collection of essays by the working group entitled #identity: Hashtagging Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Nation (Michigan, 2019).

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