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How Color Became a Technology

The Making of Chromatic Capitalism

Google Image search for "Color," 2022

My current book project tells the hundred-year-old story of how something as ephemeral as color became a technology, how capital wielded it, and how this capture and commodification of the color spectrum enabled the creation of normative subjects along racialized, classed, and gendered lines. Yet this is not a top-down process of rationalization: instead, color, with its infinitely embodied, affective, and spectacular properties, also represents a portal to the “good life”—whether that be as a marker of moral cultivation and citizenship or as a way of expressing "personality" or "authenticity" in our homes or on our social media pages.

Ultimately, How Color Became a Technology offers a new interdisciplinary and transhistorical method for studying color across media forms. It also points to a larger dialectic at play in the history of capitalism and consumer culture in the United States—between the often invisible standards and norms that govern the world we move in and the promises of emotional and aesthetic fulfillment that are dangled in front of us and indefinitely foreclosed.

Working Table of Contents:




Part I. Systemization

Chapter 1. Wheel

Part II. Standardization

Chapter 2. Grid

Chapter 3. Interior

Chapter 4. Interface


Part III. Privatization 

Chapter 5. PANTONE

Chapter 6. Filter




Left: Wine Folly's official "Aromawheel" for tasting wine   
Right: screengrab from Netflix's Headspace Guide to Meditation (2021)

My newer research looks at: 1. critiques of "wellness" culture and 2. histories and theories of taste and flavor from a transnational perspective, building on my background in modern languages and long-term fascination with food and wine.

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