Destin Jenkins is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He specializes in racial capitalism’s history and consequences for democracy and inequality in the United States. He earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University (2010), and doctorate from Stanford University (2016). He has held fellowships at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, and the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at The New School.
Destin Jenkins is the author of The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City (The University of Chicago Press). Indebtedness, like inequality, has become a ubiquitous condition in the United States. Yet few have probed American cities’ dependence on municipal debt or how the terms of municipal finance structure racial privileges, entrench spatial neglect, elide democratic input, and distribute wealth and power. In The Bonds of Inequality, Jenkins shows in vivid detail how, beyond the borrowing decisions of American cities and beneath their quotidian infrastructure, there lurks a world of politics and finance that is rarely seen, let alone understood. Focusing on San Francisco, The Bonds of Inequality offers a singular view of the postwar city, one where the dynamics that drove its creation encompassed not only local politicians but also banks, credit rating firms, insurance companies, and the national municipal bond market. Moving between the local and the national, The Bonds of Inequality uncovers how racial inequalities in San Francisco were intrinsically tied to municipal finance arrangements and how these arrangements were central in determining the distribution of resources in the city. By homing in on financing and its imperatives, Jenkins boldly rewrites the history of modern American cities, revealing the hidden strings that bind debt and power, race and inequity, democracy and capitalism.
He is also co-editor of Histories of Racial Capitalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2021). Although Cedric J. Robinson popularized the term, racial capitalism has remained undertheorized for nearly four decades. Histories of Racial Capitalism brings together for the first time distinguished and rising scholars to consider the utility of the concept across historical settings. These scholars offer dynamic accounts of the relationship between social relations of exploitation and the racial terms through which they were organized, justified, and contested. Deploying an eclectic array of methods, their works range from indigenous mortgage foreclosures to the legacies of Atlantic-world maroons, from imperial expansion in the continental United States and beyond to the racial politics of municipal debt in the New South, from the ethical complexities of Latinx banking to the postcolonial dilemmas of extraction in the Caribbean. Throughout, the contributors consider and challenge how some claims about the history and nature of capitalism are universalized while others remain marginalized. By theorizing and testing the concept of racial capitalism in different historical circumstances, this book shows its analytical and political power for today’s scholars and activists.
His writings have appeared in The Washington Post, The Nation, Just Money, Public Book, among other outlets.
Jenkins teaches on the history of racial capitalism, urban history, African American history, comparative race and ethnicity, and mass incarceration.
His research interests include twentieth-century United States, African American history, urban studies, race and inequality, and the history of capitalism.