Transgressing Settler Capitalist and Indigenous Futurity: White-Owned Wampum Factories and Native Baby Yoda


Eric D. Johnson and Zoë Antoinette Eddy. In Preparation. “Transgressing Settler Capitalist and Indigenous Futurity: White-Owned Wampum Factories and Native Baby Yoda.” American Anthropologist.


Beads and beaded objects are a medium through which Native people(s) of North America shape sovereign Indigenous futures. At the same time, settlers conscript beads into capitalist futures, whether through commodity-market circulations, industrial production, or appropriations of land and labor. Here, we examine two case studies of bead-making and bead-working across archaeology and cultural anthropology through the lens of Indigenous futurity. Johnson reads a fictionalized account of the Campbell Wampum Factory, a white-owned workshop in New Jersey that mass produced shell beads for export to Indigenous consumers throughout the 19th century. Archival and archaeological data from the site complicate this fiction, illustrating the erasures, appropriations, and harms of shell-bead settler capitalism. Eddy, based on her fieldwork in New England pow-wow circles and with contemporary North American Indigenous beaders, examines beaders’ uses of Disney, specifically the Native Baby Yoda phenomenon, to propose a theory of "trickster transgression." Beyond simply challenging binaries of traditional/modern, past/present, colonizer/colonized, and authentic/inauthentic, these artists use their work to destabilize notions of settler-colonial ownership while simultaneously establishing nuanced Indigenous creative networks. Together, these cases suggest that despite settler occupation and capitalist monopolies over cultural production, the transgressions of Native beadwork expose the fragility of short-term settler futures while continually (re)making Indigenous futurity through rupture, play, and reinvention.
Last updated on 08/26/2020