Excerpt: Iyko Day is here to warn us about the seductions of romantic anti-capitalism. This is a romance with the notion of concrete labor over and against the abstractions of exchange, the role of the producer over the financier, and that of ennobled, naturalized Indigeneity over the hyper-rational and manipulative alien—once Jewish, now Asian. The romantic anticapitalist is seduced by a fantasy of the authentic relationship of productive human capacity, agency, and concrete value over and against the seeming inauthenticity and oppressive manipulability of representation itself. For romantic anticapitalists, concrete labor stands for value that is produced through an unmediated ‘dirt-under-the-fingernails’ relationship to the material. This unmediated relationship is impeded by abstract forces, embodied in racialized others whose labor is central to the workings of white settler colonial capitalism but whose role in this system is constructed as an abstract threat to the status and freedom of the white settler. In this sense, romantic anticapitalism is a sublimated romance with racial-colonial capitalism.

Day’s Alien Capital attends to an under-examined historical, political and human register, that of Asian identity, representation, and experience in the North American settler colonial states. One can productively read Day’s work alongside Jodi Byrd’s The Transit of Empire, as Day’s concern with the alien settler openly draws from and speaks to Byrd’s conceptualization of the role of the ‘arrivante’ in settler colonial contexts. However, Day’s attention to the alien in relation to settler colonial capital focuses specifically on the Asian migrant/laborer, and in so doing offers a way to deconstruct the racialized, gendered, sexualized and colonial nature of the representation of value, and of indeed representation itself. In Day’s telling, it is the Asian migrant who comes to stand for the evils of abstraction with regard to valuation, exchange, and thus capitalism itself. 

While richly historical, the book’s subject of study is a diverse range of literary, visual, and cinematic representations—some of which are intentional works of art and others are created for their function in the economy. Examples of the latter frame the beginning and end of the book. An introduction entitled “The New Jews” starts by discussing the 2012 Canadian hundred-dollar bill, which at first depicted a female Asian scientist but was later supplanted by the ostensibly “‘neutral ethnicity'” of a “‘Caucasian-looking woman.” (1) The book’s epilogue pivots around an analysis of an early 20th century salmon-gutting machine from British Columbia called the “Iron Chink.” What connects both is that as “money or machine, the Asian is aligned with the destructive value dimension of capitalism.” (193) The presumption undergirding the analyses of these two subjects and those analyzed in the intervening chapters is nicely captured in Petrus Liu’s insight, quoted by Day, that “‘…the value of the commodity of human labor is determined by moral and discursive operations outside of the capitalist reproduction scheme.'” (47, emphasis original) Day’s approach compels the reader to take discursive practices seriously, rather than dismissively viewing them as epiphenomenal to the ostensibly unmediated, real practices of capitalist reproduction. Day lays bare and pursues the discursive as well as economic practices by which relations between people become transformed, diminished, and fetishized into a relationship between things. In that sense, there is no clear outside here, as moral and discursive operations motivate and define roles in capitalist production. This is a shaping that prefigures the answer to such questions as, who is presumed to serve in what role in the economy, what constitutes the concept of labor and laboring, to what end and what level of deprivation, to whose benefit and under what threat? As Day makes clear throughout the book, the value of a commodity of human labor does not exist apart from racialized, colonialist, gendered, sexualized, classed, and ableist meanings.

Access the invitation here.

Excerpt: One of Michel Foucault’s enduring scholarly legacies is his formulation of biopolitics as a potent force in our lives. What he had in mind, among other issues, was the pervasive and comprehensive power of states and industries to affect all aspects of life. Power, for Foucault, could insinuate itself into all microphysical social and physical contact and thus disciplined bodies and minds alike. Ever since his death in 1984, we are looking for ways of shaking off his gloomy observation that rings true and yet we wish to resist (Foucault 2003:242–243).

Quite surprisingly, Foucault did not relate the concept of biopolitics, or biopower, to racism and colonialism as Robert Young observed already in 1995. For Foucault this was the domain of the modern nation state and its particular mode of domination (although he inspired one of the most important work on colonialism, Edward Said’s Orientalism [1979]). However, what happens if the modern state is a settler colonial state? Are we allowed to apply this micro domination to such a case study? I think we can, as the two books under review—without committing them to this paradigm they have not chosen—indicate the usefulness of this possible departure point for discussing the relationship between the settler colonial state of Israel and the native Palestinian population.

The first book, Palestinian Commemoration in Israel: Calendars, Monuments, and Martyrs, by Tamir Sorek examines the commemorative culture of the Palestinian minority in Israel through formative events in their national lives (beginning, of course, with the 1948 catastrophe, the Nakbah). For Sorek, these commemorative spaces empower the minority within the Jewish state, but also indicate its willingness to dialogue with it. His approach is multidisciplinary and he provides us with a very thorough and comprehensive view on this culture in various manifestations since the inception of the Jewish State.

In Colonial Jerusalem: The Spatial Construction of Identity and Difference in a City of Myth, 1948-2012, Thomas Philip Abowd roams the streets of Jerusalem with local friends and tries to share with them the harsh reality of colonization. His focus is the urban reality as a scene of colonialist erasure and counter commemoration by the colonized. The book moves in and out of history, covering some of the most known acts of urbicide that Israel committed in Jerusalem as well as less known instances of the colonization as a project of the de-Arabization of the city. He gives much space to the people themselves and conveys not just their thoughts, but their emotions and aspirations as much as he can.

There are still today quite a few students of Israel and Palestine who find it hard to append the adjectives colonial, or settler colonial, to the Jewish State. However, recent scholarship is quite adamant that this is the appropriate paradigm for analyzing the past and the present of Israel and Palestine.1 This paradigm was applied by scholars to review the events of 1948; the Judaization policies in the south of Israel; the economic policies of Israel in the occupied West Bank and the industrial relationship during the Mandatory period, to mention but few of the major works in this area of inquiry (Lloyd 2012, Nasara 2012, Hever 2012, Mansour 2012). Major works in the field are those by Patrick Wolfe (2006), Lorenzo Veracini (2006), and Gaby Piterberg (2008).

Excerpt:  aIn her story “Salmon Is the Hub of Salish Memory,” Sto:lo writer Lee Maracle reminds the reader of the relationship between the fish and the women, and she foregrounds the vital importance of honouring and nurturing these living entities and their interrelatedness amongst one another and within the environment that sustains them. Attentive to the context in which she writes, Maracle reiterates the story’s warning that failure to do so will result in their disappearance. She further ponders what “the story does not say” (51), that is, with regards to responsibility when settlers are the cause of the devastation. Her text immediately calls to mind ongoing struggles for the protection of Indigenous lands and lives against the combined forces of global capitalism and settler colonialism. It brings out the necessity for a recovery that Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang have described as a fundamental decolonization imperative, one that “must involve repatriation of land simultaneous to the recognition of how land and relations to land have always already been differently understood and enacted” (Tuck and Yang 7). With her re-telling of the Salish story, Maracle puts forth the idea that caretaking—under all circumstances—remains a vital element in the struggles for Indigenous peoples and for the continuation of life in all its forms. Moreover, as Kyle Powys Whyte and Chris Cuomo observe, it is precisely “[a]s enactments of complex commitments to care [that] indigenous environmental movements have made great strides in protecting indigenous lifeways against the parties who are responsible for the environmental problems they face” (5). These parties include “international bodies, nation-states, subnational governments, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations” (Whyte and Cuomo 5-6). The question of responsibility therefore remains at the heart of an understanding of Indigenous environmental ethics and of their actualization in today’s neoliberal globalized colonial settler contexts.

Often, and in many ways, the contemporary productions of Indigenous scholars, activists, writers, and filmmakers relate to Maracle’s assertion that “violence to earth and violence between humans are connected” (53). In their respective works, for instance, Innu poet Natasha Kanapé Fontaine (2014), Blood and Sámi filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (2011), and Mohawk scholar Audra Simpson (2016) have exposed the intricate connections between the settler colonial project, the devastation of ecosystems, and the lives of Indigenous women and girls. Their poetic, filmic, and scholarly narratives contribute to ongoing conversations on environmental ethics and social justice at times of climate crisis by exposing the planetary and the community implications of the state of relationships between the land and the people. Tailfeathers makes this explicit when describing her short experimental film Bloodland, which is broadcast on YouTube, as “a social statement on the irreversible and detrimental impact of gas and oil exploration on our planet; and in particular on the impact that hydraulic fracturing has and will have on Kainaiwa, or Blood land” (Tailfeathers). Drawing on aesthetics of gore, Bloodland shows interspersed images of drilling into the earth and into the body of a young woman. The two sets of images rapidly mingle together to denounce the concomitant taking of Indigenous lands and lives while pointing at the gendered quality of this extractive violence.

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