This essay focuses on class action lawsuits brought by African American and Native American farmers against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for discrimination in the administration of its farm loan programs. The author argues that to see the broad significance of these cases it is necessary to go beyond the juridical framework of discrimination, which forecloses consideration of the constitutive force of state racisms, ongoing settler colonial dispossession, and heteronormativity, and to consider a more expansive frame that brings together and makes legible the shared repertoire of devaluating practices and conditions these cases raise. This essay considers how the lawsuits against the USDA collectively convey the dynamics of the colonial present in relation to predicaments of land, government, and financialization. At stake is not only how forms of colonial governance, property, indebtedness, and jurisprudence continue to impinge upon and be contested or negotiated by Indigenous and Black peoples today but also how these shape political, economic, and social formations more broadly and variously manifest between past and present tense. It is precisely the coexistence and compatibility of necropolitical will and conciliatory inclusion that seem emblematic of the current conjuncture, where the sustained project of attrition, devaluation, and disposability under way enacts dispossessive projects in the historical present.
The Ground Not Given: Colonial Dispositions of Land, Race, and Hunger
Alyosha Goldstein is associate professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of Poverty in Common: The Politics of Community Action during the American Century (2012) and the editor of Formations of United States Colonialism (2014).