New Books Network

In our efforts to comprehend the systematic dispossession of indigenous peoples in settler colonies such as the United States, Canada, Australia, or Israel, the...

In our efforts to comprehend the systematic dispossession of indigenous peoples in settler colonies such as the United States, Canada, Australia, or Israel, the notion that “invasion is a structure, not merely an event,” first articulated by Patrick Wolfe, has become something of a maxim for critical theorists. Part of this structure, as Patrick Wolfe described it, was a logic of elimination: after all, the settler must eliminate the native in order to secure her claim to the native’s territory. But whom does the Native/settler binary exclude? And what do we fail to understand about how settler colonialism functions, as a result?

These are just some of the questions to which Iyko Day speaks in her new book, Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism (Duke University Press, 2016). Centering Asian racialization in the United States and Canada in relation to Indigenous dispossession and structures of anti-blackness, Day explores how the historical alignment of Asian bodies and labor with capital’s abstract and negative dimensions became one of settler colonialism’s foundational and defining features. Romantic anti-capitalism, in turn, allowed white settlers to gloss over their complicity with capitalist exploitation.

In treating Asian North American cultural production as a transnational genealogy of settler colonialism’s capitalist logic, Day does no less than re-theorize settler colonialism itself: Alien Capital pushes us to consider how settler colonialism functions not within a Native/settler binary, but rather as a dynamic triangulation of Native, settler, and alien positionalities. Listen in for the nitty-gritty.

Here are some of the books mentioned in the interview:

–Jonathan Freedman, Klezmer America: Jewishness, Ethnicity, Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).
–Colleen Lye, America’s Asia: Racial Form and American Literature, 1893-1945 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
–Brenna Bhandar, Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018).
–Lisa Lowe, The Intimacies of Four Continents (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015).


Nancy Ko is a PhD student in History at Columbia University, where she examines Jewish philanthropy and racialization in the late- and post-Ottoman Middle East from a global and comparative perspective. She can be reached at [nancy.ko@columbia.edu].