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Chapter 2 - Eco-Criticism and Primitive Accumulation in Indigenous Studies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2022

Colleen Lye
University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Nealon
Johns Hopkins University
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This chapter explores the ways in which settler colonial racial capitalism designates Indigenous lands as nonsites of nuclear modernity, making them available for what Traci Brynne Voyles calls “wastelanding.” These are sites that are deemed unproductive, backward, and peripheral to the technological superiority of the global north but are nevertheless mined for “resources.” By homing in on the cycles of accumulation associated with uranium mining that largely occurs on Indigenous lands, I grapple with Marx’s theory of “so-called primitive accumulation” as a constitutive, contemporary, and violent extra-economic logic of settler colonial racial capitalism. Drawing on a range of theorists from classical Marxist to Critical Indigenous Studies tradition – including Peter Kropotkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Glen Coulthard, and Robert Nichols – I lead readers to the role of colonial dispossession in relation to the conceptual category of land in Capital, Vol. 1. Both building on and departing from recent revisionist accounts of primitive accumulation, I argue that Marx’s commentary on colonialism reveals the parasitic role of the state and how primitive accumulation functions as a race-making operation that is a necessary precondition for the present and future accumulation of capital.

After Marx
Literature, Theory, and Value in the Twenty-First Century
, pp. 40 - 54
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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