Indigenous people must have no money: Jessica R. Cattelino, ‘From Locke to Slots: Money and the Politics of Indigeneity’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 60, 2, 2018, pp. 274-307


Abstract: With ongoing consequences for American Indians, the New World Indian has been a pervasive figure of constitutive exclusion in modern theories of money, property, and government. This paradoxical exclusion of indigenous peoples from the money/property/government complex is intrinsic to, and constitutive of, modern theories of money. What is more, it haunts the cultural politics of indigenous peoples’ economic actions. In Part I, I establish that, and how, indigeneity has been constitutively present at the foundation of modern theories of money, as Europeans and settlers defined indigenous peoples in part by the absence of money and property (of which money is a special form). In turn, and more to the point here, they defined money and property in part as that which modern non-indigenous people have and use. These are not solely economic matters: the conceptual exclusions from money/property were coproduced with juridical ones insofar as liberal political theory grounded the authority of modern government in private property (and, in turn, in money). To show how this formation of money and indigeneity has mattered both for disciplinary anthropology and for American public culture at several historical moments, Part II traces how the dilemmas expressed by these texts haunt subsequent debates about the function of wampum, the logic of potlatch, and the impact of tribal gaming. Such debates inform scholarship beyond the boundaries of anthropology and, as each case shows in brief, they create harms and benefits for peoples in ways that perpetuate the (il)logics and everyday practices of settler colonialism.

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