This article addresses the coproduction of US imperialism, racism, and debt in the dispossession and indenture of Indigenous peoples. It does so by thinking through the 2008 subprime crisis within the context of the Occupy Wall Street movement and some of the scholarship that the crisis provoked. It shows how Indigenous peoples were not merely erased within understandings of the crisis but represented in such a way as to reconcile their erasure. The article does this by analyzing the bearing of the dispossession of Lenapehoking (Lenape territory), in the context of the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, to the articulatory present of a US imperial formation. Government and corporate collusion and criminal fraud over Indigenous land title are seen not as a new thing but as a structural component of US economics. It concludes that seeing territory as an analytic provides a way of understanding the kinds of fraud and collusion, thrown into sharp relief by the crisis, that have long since been operating to (in)form the relations and conditions of economic inequality within the United States. Understanding the crisis in relation to the dispossession of Indigenous territories de-exceptionalizes the crisis: predatory lending and foreclosures are a method of dispossession. Dispossession is not anecdotal but formative. Further, Indigenous territory refutes the viability of inclusionist methodologies and their promises of social justice and equity—as if inclusion can resolve the problem of erasure. If dispossession is understood as formative of the US empire, might it be necessary to treat it as a component of the economic disparity not only of Indigenous people but also of others so indentured within/to the state?
Territory as Analytic: The Dispossession of Lenapehoking and the Subprime Crisis
Joanne Barker is Lenape (a citizen of the Delaware Tribe of Indians). She is professor of American Indian studies at San Francisco State University, author of Native Acts: Law, Recognition, and Cultural Authenticity (2011), and editor of Critically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (2017) and Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination (2005).