Keith Feldman 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? Feldman 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.
In Feldman’s current book-length project, “Patterns of Life: Raciality, Visuality, Global War,” he explores literary and visual configurations of the body in the long war on terror (roughly 1978 to the present). He investigates how contemporary U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian 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?