Abstract: South Carolina was a staggeringly weak polity from its founding in 1670 until the 1730s. Nevertheless, in that time, and while facing significant opposition from powerful indigenous neighbors, the colony constructed a robust plantation system that boasted the highest slave-to-freeman ratio in mainland North America. Taking this fact as a point of departure, I examine the early management of unfree labor in South Carolina as an exemplary moment of settler-colonial state formation. Departing from the treatment of state formation as a process of centralizing “legitimate violence,” I investigate how the colonial state, and in particular the Commons House of Assembly, asserted an exclusive claim to authority by monopolizing the question of legitimacy itself. In managing unfree laborers, the colonial state extended its authority over supposedly private relations between master and slave and increasingly recast slavery in racial terms. This recasting of racial slavery rested, I argue, on a distinction, pervasive throughout English North America, which divided the world into spheres of savagery and civility. Beneath the racial reordering of colonial life, the institution of slavery was rooted in the same ideological distinction by which the colonial state’s claims to authority were justified, with the putative “savagery” of the slave or of the Indian being counterpoised to the supposed civility of English settlers. This article contributes to the literatures on Atlantic slavery and American colonial history, and invites comparison with accounts of state formation and settler colonialism beyond Anglo-America.

A link to the book’s page.

Abstract: In 1939, Wisconsin readers of a weekly newspaper column by Mitchell Redcloud, a member of the Ho-Chunk Indian community settled within the rural township of Komensky, were greeted with a set of headlines from the imaginary “Komensky News” about an actual local event. The headlines reported that despite opposition from local whites, Ho-Chunk people had successfully elected a Ho-Chunk candidate to the township board. This article draws on studies of Indigenous media and recent efforts to develop field-theoretic accounts of social action to understand the interdependence of Redcloud’s headlines and the Ho-Chunk vote as part of an incipient project of Indigenous political action. Using census records, I first describe the positions in the everyday field of race and class relations that Ho-Chunk people occupied in Komensky, based on their incomes, educations, and occupational statuses. I then draw on this description to understand Redcloud’s position-taking strategies before the election. I next examine Redcloud’s writing career in the newspaper to understand his strategy of self-positioning as a marked Indian voice within a print-based discursive field that denigrated other Ho-Chunk voices. I finish by examining new position-taking strategies manifest in the 1939 vote and in Redcloud’s turn to headline register. I argue that both media and electoral mechanisms offered relatively autonomous fields that made these experiments with Indigenous action possible despite the absence of tribal political institutions necessary to transform the positions Ho-Chunk people occupied in their everyday lives. Together, the headlines and the election suggest the interdependence of activism carried out in media and in governmental structures in the production of transformative acts of political self-representation.

1) Tequila Sovereign’s astute questioning, 30/06/15.

2) The Daily Beast‘s ‘scoop‘, 30/06/15.

3) Moontime Warrior’s resonable response, 01/07/15.

Abstract: In 1924, the government of British Columbia submitted to the British authorities a proposal that aimed to resettle what it hoped would be thousands of Scottish crofters from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland to work in its fisheries, taking advantage of funding made available by the recently passed Empire Settlement Act (ESA) of 1922. Ostensibly, the province endeavoured to provide a better life for a loyal, yet long-suffering, “British” population, to improve the filial imperial ties that were starting to fray following the First World War, to provide the fishing industry with “white” “British” workers to displace its largely Asian workforce, and to introduce a “martial race” to defend its shores. Yet, this scheme was abandoned in late 1925. In private, officials in Canada doubted that the Hebrideans could ever be rehabilitated, as the scheme and the ESA envisioned. Employers saw the Hebrideans as effete and lazy rather than as ready-made militiamen and continued to employ the Asians who they saw as superior workers. Labourers feared that the Hebrideans would undercut their wages and lower their elevated status as “white” and “British,” one that they and the province had carefully cultivated since its foundation. Lastly, the liminal status of the Hebridean Scots reflected and was part of the broader ambivalence of Canada’s place in the evolving British Empire/Commonwealth of the 1920s, one that embraced the imperial tie yet also oftentimes sought greater autonomy from it.

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