Capitalist Humanitarianism: Labor, Loss, and the Study of Religion

When and Where

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Hybrid: University College & Zoom
Paul Cadario Conference Centre, Croft Chapter House
15 King's College Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3H7


Lucia Hulsether (Skidmore College)



The First Annual DSR Alumni & Friends Lecture

Delivered by Professor Lucia Hulsether (Skidmore College)

The lecture will be followed by a cheese and wine reception.

→ Register


The struggle against neoliberal order has gained momentum over the last five decades, to the point that economic elites have not only adapted to Left critiques—but incorporated them for capitalist expansion. Venture funds expose their ties to slavery and pledge to invest in racial equity. Banks pitch microloans as a path to indigenous self-determination. Fair-trade brands narrate consumption as an act of feminist solidarity with women artisans in the global South.

Capitalist Humanitarianism examines these projects and the contexts of their emergence. Blending historical and ethnographic styles, and traversing intimate and global scales, it tracks how neoliberal self-critique creates new institutional hegemonies that, in turn, reproduce racial and neocolonial dispossession. From archives of Christian fair traders to luxury social entrepreneurship conferences, from US finance offices to Guatemalan towns flooded with their loan products, from service economy desperation to the internal contradictions of social movements, this book argues that capitalist humanitarian projects are fueled as much by profit motive as by a hope that racial capitalism can redeem the losses that accumulate in its wake.

Duke University Press, March 2023 . The 30% discount code is E23HLSTH.

About Lucia Hulsether

A theorist of religion, culture, and politics in the Americas and an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Skidmore College, Lucia Hulsether's core areas of study and teaching include capitalism and labor, histories of social movements, feminist theory, popular culture and media, and other topics in contemporary cultural critique.

Her first book, Capitalist Humanitarianism, is published in March 2023 by Duke University Press. She is currently working on two projects: one on the gendered history of youth civic engagement programs and another on the cultures of competitive college debate.

Hulsether's research has appeared in journals like Public Culture, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and the Journal of Religion and American Culture. She has also written popular pieces for Jacobin, Religion and Politics, and Immanent Frame.

With Tina Pippin, Hulsether is co-host of Nothing Never Happens: The Radical Pedagogy Podcast.

Lucia Hulsether received her PhD in Religious Studies from Yale University in 2020, and also holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard and a BA from Agnes Scott College.

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15 King's College Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3H7