- Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism
Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism is the follow-up book to the highly celebrated The American Empire and the Fourth World: The Bowl with One Spoon (2003). Anthony Hall, a professor of globalization studies at the University of Lethbridge, is the author of the series. Both books are incredibly interesting; however, the focus of this review will be the second work, Earth into Property. Broadly, the allure of Earth into Property is couched in its ability to depict the societal metamorphosis of the Western Hemisphere and convey a diverse account of human history. A major strength of the text is that it folds a narrative of aboriginal people into the changing understanding of democracy, capitalism, and nationalism. The literary aim of this work allows it to probe history from an indigenous perspective, which is sometimes lacking from the selection of comparable academic work.
Earth into Property has all the necessary qualities to be a popular piece. It is comprised of strong content, a fluid literary framework, and rich layering arguments, and it is far from dull. Although the intention of the piece is to contextualize high academic theories, it maintains elements of a historical novel and, in some respects, a personal account. It is not inaccurate to state that sections of the book read like a dialogue. Hall frequently reconstructs and grounds details [End Page 387] by drawing himself into the text and discussing his personal and professional experiences. The inclusion of Hall loosens the ridged theoretical underpinnings of Earth into Property, which makes it all the more captivating and different.
Thoughtful commentary is peppered throughout and aids in scaffolding the discussion of the growing interactions among the broad political, military, and industry sectors. In light of these emerging partnerships, the book focuses heavily on the postcontact and conquest experiences of aboriginal people. One notable section describes the sequence of aboriginal histories as a “quest to describe those founding acts that infuse meaning and substance into new institutions” (37). Subsequent passages capture not only the oppression of indigenous communities but also the impact of changing governmental attitudes via burgeoning bureaucratic structures. The theme of indigenous communities responding to the birth of new forms of government and impeding majority societal interests holds throughout the book.
Hall also makes a point to show the startling similarities between the experiences of American Indians in the United States and the negative situations endured by aboriginal people across the world. The book draws “ironic parallels” (268) between the persecution of American Indians and the plight of early American settlers coming to the New World “in search of freedoms not granted in their own countries” (268). The reader is prompted to understand similarity in governmental “solutions” used to handle disenfranchised groups. Additionally the text seeks to illustrate the clear pattern of deploying, refining, and re-deploying political and military action to affirm majority hierarchies, arrangements, and continued exploitation.
Along the same thought, the book displays the “interconnectedness between individual and state ideologies” (5). The relationship between multiple governmental and social agents makes it clear that the process of disenfranchising indigenous groups is conscious and formulaic. According to Hall, law is the cornerstone of this process. Throughout history, it has been used to negotiate the boundaries between the minority and the state. For indigenous people, law is connected to fracturing communities, removing power, and assuming ownership over the individual, knowledge, culture, and territory. Within the same breath, law enables governments to absorb and expel indigenous populations. The process of societal inclusion and exclusion was continually exerted on American Indians and other aboriginal groups (269). For instance, American Indians were forced into broad society by gaining US citizenship in 1924 (269), juxtaposed to the use of reservations as a security device “keep Indians in” (268). Other illustrations include the legal codification of early American nationalistic ideologies (such as Manifest Destiny) and the legal manifestation of religious doctrines to support “the colonization of time, as well as space” (110).