Global capital as settler: Lourdes Gutiérrez Nájera, Korinta Maldonado, ‘Transnational Settler Colonial Formations and Global Capital: A Consideration of Indigenous Mexican Migrants’, American Quarterly, 69, 4, 2017, pp. 809-821


Excerpt: The Los Angeles Central Library’s exhibition “Visualizing Language: A Zapotec Worldview,” which opened this past September, features a series of murals produced by the Oaxacan artists collective Tlacolulokos. The murals are envisioned as providing a “counter-narrative” to existing ones painted by Dean Cornwell, in 1933, depicting a history of California in four stages: Era of Discovery, Missions, Americanization, and Founding of the City of Los Angeles. In these paintings Native people are depicted as marginal and subservient figures within grander visions of colonization. The new murals are thus intended to provide a new voice by putting “a different protagonist in the center of the story.” What is of interest for the present essay is who gets to tell this story. It is not Native artists on whose land the library is built, but Oaxacan Indigenous people. In this way, this project continues a legacy of erasure embedded in current discourses of multiculturalism that reinforce settler colonial dispossession and hegemony.

Taking Indigenous Mexican migration as a point of departure, this essay joins critical scholarship on settler colonialism exploring the role of the migrant in settler processes. Following Patrick Wolfe’s theorization of settler colonialism as a structuring force rather than as a historical passage, we ask: How might a comparative framework on settler colonialisms help us articulate theoretical discussion beyond the dominant settler–Native racial binary? And in which ways does the settler colonial theoretical framework render visible the ways in which distinct bodies are racialized within and beyond national boundaries? We understand settler colonialism as the complex reverberations originating from Indigenous dispossession and white possession. As a global and transnational phenomenon, settler colonialism is a structuring force that in coproduction with the transatlantic slave trade, indentured labor, and other forms of racial ordering enables particular racial logics and forms of exclusions integral to global capital and empire.

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