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art history Atlantic history Dutch Early modern Europe empire Latin America

Agneta Block’s Pineapple: Colonial Botany and the Europeanization of Knowledge

By Cindy Kok

Look closely at the lower left corner of Jan Weenix’s 1693 group portrait: a pineapple grows amidst a cluster of exotic plants (Fig. 1). At first glance, Weenix’s depiction of this family suggests a familiar narrative of Dutch Golden Age wealth and success. To the right, merchant Sybrand de Flines (1623-1697) wears a luxurious kimono-inspired robe; his wife and children pose at a country estate, surrounded by objects of knowledge and art. However, Weenix draws the viewer’s attention to the pineapple, composing the family members in a diagonal leading to the plant. In addition, the artist shows the pineapple on its stem—still relatively small—rather than an imported ripened fruit.

Why is an American botanical a focal point of this composition? More than a family portrait, Weenix’s painting celebrates matriarch Agneta (Agnes) Block (1629-1704) and her achievements as a naturalist and botanist. Scholarship on women naturalists has highlighted their role in shaping a domestic relationship to European exploration. Botanical illustrations by artists like Maria Sibylla Merian and Rachel Ruysch—as well as the images’ afterlives in crafts like embroidery—made fragments of the larger world accessible to a European audience (Tomasi, “La femminil pazienza,” 160; Kinukawa, “Science and Whiteness as Property in the Dutch Atlantic World, 93-94). Block, however, purchased an estate outside Amsterdam in 1670 to engage directly in theoretical and experiential sciences from which women were commonly barred (Fig. 2). In 1687, she successfully grew the first European pineapple plant in the Vijverhof hothouses. With her pineapple, and this portrait, Block locates herself intellectually within a network of (predominantly male) European naturalists taxonomizing, codifying, and propagating the flora and fauna of the New World.

European explorers did not discover the pineapple, nor were they the first to cultivate it. Pineapples are indigenous to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, originating between the Paraná and Paraguay rivers (where modern-day Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet) (Okihiro, Pineapple Culture, 74). Native Americans first domesticated the plant for its fruit, which they believed stimulated the appetite and aided digestion. By the seventeenth century, the pineapple is well-documented in European writings such as Pietro Martir de Anghiera’s  De Orbo Novo and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdéz’s Historia General y Natural de las Indias.

Fig. 1. Jan Weenix. Agneta Block and garden Flora Batava. 1693-4. Oil on canvas. Amsterdam Museum.

Oviedo describes the pineapple as having a “beauty of appearance, delicate fragrance, [and] excellent flavor” that affects all the senses in a way in which “none of the other fruits…can compare, by many carats” (Oviedo y Valdéz, Historia General y Natural de las Indias, in Collins, 9-14). He quantifies its value in commercial terms typically reserved for precious materials.  Indeed, European interest in the pineapple grew with trading companies’ investment in commercial botanicals, or “green gold” (Schiebinger, “Prospecting for Drugs,” 119). Plantation owners cultivated these profitable plants in American and Asian territories; trading companies carried the products back to eager consumers in Europe. Undergirding this imperial economy was the study of natural sciences, which used European scientific methods to monetize plant resources from outside territories (De Vos, “The Science of Spices,” 401-402).  Block’s pineapple, particularly its reliance on hothouses that replicated equatorial colonial climates, is inextricably linked to this imperial-commercial complex.

To have greater control over cultivating tropical plants, gardeners had to understand how to manage the instruments of a hothouse. The Dutch first pioneered the design and use of hothouses in 1685, prompting European elites to send their gardeners to the Netherlands to study Dutch methods and buy Dutch pineapple plants (O’Connor, Pineapple, 24). Most prominently, Gaspar Fagel, adviser to stadhouder William of Orange (later William III of England), established a tropical garden at his estate Leeuwenhorst; after his death, part of his collection transferred to Hampton Court in 1689, accompanied by Dutch gardeners who maintained, expanded, and documented the collection (Arens, “Flowerbeds and Hothouses,” 266). The European gardener needed to be a mechanical as well as a natural scientist, bringing together technical knowledge with field and laboratory research (Fleischer, “Rooted in fertile soil,” 1). Hothouse technology, in combination with botanical knowledge, allowed gardeners to grow tropical plants year-round in cold Europe, subverting natural seasons and climates.

The hothouse became a way to appropriate even the environment of South American territories, overcoming distance, reordering non-native plants in a European taxonomy, and controlling them with European science. The wealthy and well-educated Block deployed this new technology at Vijverhof. In the humid hothouse, she planted a pineapple slip—a tuft of leaves taken from the base of the plant—acquired from the collection of tropical and subtropical plants at the Horticultural Garden in Leiden (O’Connor, Pineapple, 24; Oviedo y Valdez, Historia General y Natural de las Indias, in Collins, 12). Most likely she learned this indigenous American method of propagating pineapples from books such as Oveido’s. Although Block’s work intersected with colonial botany—whereby imperialists acquired and deployed indigenous knowledge—she was uninterested in growing pineapples commercially. Rather, her success was a personal achievement that gained her access to European intellectual and cultural networks. Vijverhof became a center for other painters and naturalists like Merian, Herman Saftleven, and Jan Commelin to study rare specimen firsthand.

Fig. 2. From the Atlas Coenen van ‘s Gravesloot (specific maker unknown). View of the Vecht River in Loenen from the Vijverhof Estate. c. 1718-1719. Print. Utrecht Archives.

Before the development of hothouses, the pineapple had been elusive: difficult to preserve in the transatlantic journey, impossible to grow in cold northern climates. Its rarity made it an impressive diplomatic gift. When unable to purchase the expensive fruit, English noblemen could still rent a pineapple to display at important dinners (Thompson, “Pineapples”). According to legend, royal gardener John Rose gifted a pineapple to his patron King Charles II in the 1660s. Although the pineapple was likely imported and not even grown in the royal gardens, Hendrik Danckerts chooses this career-defining exchange to commemorate Rose upon his death (Fig. 3). The moment of presentation, as mythologized by Danckerts, is ceremonious: Rose kneels before Charles presenting the pineapple, as if symbolically offering his monarch all the botanical resources of the New World.

Rose and Charles pose in front of an English estate, the gardener holding the pineapple as if it were a flower. Danckerts’ constructed image erases the origin of the pineapple and the work and knowledge of the indigenous American cultivators who grew it; he implies that the plant originated from the estate, reinforcing this idea with visual echoes of pineapple plants in leafy pots surrounding the fountain. The artist places Rose at the center of the narrative, positioning the European gardener as procurer of New World goods and proprietor of scientific botanical knowledge. Similarly, in her portrait, Block claims credit for the pineapple, seamlessly incorporated into her surroundings. Although central to his painting, Weenix situates the plant among other foreign flora and symbols of knowledge within a European landscape. These portraits fictionalize global natural history, perpetuating a narrative in which the pineapple is only available when mediated by European expertise.

Fig. 3. British School, after Hendrick Danckerts. Charles II Presented with a Pineapple. c. 1675-1680. Oil on canvas. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Block also facilitated the normalization and circulation of the foreign through images. In particular, her successful cultivation of a pineapple prompted her to adopt it as her personal emblem. Around 1700, Albert van Spiers illustrated a frontispiece for an album of drawings Block collected from Heroldt (Fig. 4) (“Design for a floral frontispiece with a portrait medallion of Agnes Block”). The floral wreath includes Block’s portrait medallion, discussed below, as well as her family’s coat-of-arms. Floral motifs were popular for frontispieces but Spiers customizes his illustration for Block’s album by using tropical flowers, many of which he likely studied in  her garden. Even the scales of the gold frame recall segmented pineapple fruit. In her visual program, exotic botanicals become associated with Block’s personal identity, rather than with non-European peoples or places. Once the botanicals are transplanted to her estate, they become absorbed into Vijverhof’s knowledge base for Block to (re)distribute.

Block also commissioned a portrait medal by Jan Boskam that references her expertise in horticulture (Fig. 5) (Vander Ploeg Fallon, “Petronella de la Court and Agneta Block,” 103). On the recto, the phrase “Flora Batava,” or Dutch Flora, is stamped alongside Block’s profile; on the verso, an anthropomorphized figure of Nature holds a tulip—originally from Turkey but popular and valuable in the Netherlands—and gestures to Block’s gardens at Vijverhof. To the right of Nature, as in the Weenix portrait, are a cactus and a pineapple plant, crown jewels of Block’s garden.

In this idealized vision of the garden, the tools of Block’s work, such as the hothouse, are elided in favor of a more mythical narrative about the bounty of nature with which Block (like the Dutch Republic) is blessed. With the non-native flora, Block mimics a guild tradition of stamping medallions with signs of membership to a network of like-minded specialists (Weinstein, “The Storied Stones of Altona,” 573). Block symbolically joins the ranks of professional naturalists and, like them, collects and fits knowledge into a European framework. Long before pineapples were widely available for consumption, Block assimilates the imagery and disseminates it. Unlike artists like Merian and Albert Eckhout, who traveled to the Americas and painted pineapples as symbols of foreign bounty (Fig. 6), Block’s pineapple is presented as a Dutch product integrated into Dutch gardening.

The modern age of the Anthropocene has inherited this notion that human interventions—from hothouse pineapples to ethylene-ripened bananas—allow us to master and improve upon nature. Yet even with naturalists’ attempts to scientifically regulate and define plants, the living specimen remained inherently unstable and mutable (Arens, “Flowerbeds and Hothouses,” 272). In spite of the advantages afforded by the hothouse, gardening was always characterized by this European struggle to control colonial resources and manage the demands of nature. The visual, however, remained easier to manipulate and, while not her explicit goal, Block patronized work that reinforced the visual scheme of empire. Botanical gardens and natural sciences, long considered politically neutral in scholarship, actively facilitate a Europeanization of knowledge taken from indigenous sources through processes of imperialism. The images that emerged in conjunction with natural histories and accounts of curiosities achieve similar ends, eliding a sense of locality to privilege European centrality. Through her experiments and visual rhetoric, Block similarly displaces the pineapple to relocate it in a European sphere. By placing exotic fruits in her portraits, medallions, and printed material, Block expresses a sense of possession that reflects a Dutch understanding of their relationship to the New World.

Fig. 4. Albert van Spiers (Piramied). “Design for a floral frontispiece with a portrait medallion of Agnes Block.” c. 1700. Christie’s Old Master and 19th Century Drawings (Sale 1340), Lot 129, Jan. 22, 2004, New York, New York.
Fig. 5. J. Boskam. Portrait Medallion of Agnes Block; reverse with her garden at Vijverhof. 1700. Silver. Centraal Museum, Utrecht.
Fig. 6. Albert Eckhout. Still Life with Watermelon, Pineapple and Other Fruits. 17th century. Oil on canvas. National Museum of Denmark.

Cynthia Kok is a PhD candidate in the History of Art department at Yale University. Her work investigates the global circulation of material and ideas in an early modern Dutch world; she is currently working on a dissertation on mother-of-pearl.

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Divi filius: The Comet of 44 BCE and the Politics of Late Republican Rome

By guest contributor Dora Gao

Celestial objects and events have appeared in the historical record for a myriad of reasons, serving as portents of either fortune or doom or asserting the divine authority of a ruler. The comet of 44 BCE is one example of the way in which astronomy played a role in political narratives, given its use to legitimate the young Octavian (later known as Augustus) as a significant and serious figure in the politics of the late Roman Republic. We can look at the fact of this comet’s occurrence and its interpretation as a case study to examine the use of celestial phenomena as a sociopolitical tool.

The comet of 44 allegedly appeared in the sky over the funeral games that Octavian had put on for his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, in July of that year. As Octavian himself would later write in his Memoirs, “On the very days of my games, a comet (sidus crinitum) was visible over the course of seven days, in the northern region of the heavens (= near Ursa Major). It rose at about the eleventh hour of the day (= ~5 – 6:15 PM) and was bright and plainly seen from all lands” (Memoirs, fr. 6 [Malcovtai], translation and interpretation by Ramsey and Licht). According to Octavian’s testimony, “the common people believed the comet to signify that the soul of Caesar had been received among the spirits of the immortal gods” (Memoirsfr. 6 (Malcovtai)).

The comet and its interpretation had significant ramifications given the political climate of the late Roman Republic. With a growing schism between the conservative senatorial faction and popular politicians that culminated in the assassination of Caesar and threatened open civil war, the Roman Senate was facing a leadership vacuum. Though Caesar had named Octavian as his son in his will, Octavian was only eighteen years old with no political or military experience at the time, and had been adopted by Caesar only months before. There was no reason for the Roman Senate to view him as a legitimate contender for leadership. The fortuitous appearance of the comet in July, then, presented an opportunity for Octavian to distinguish himself. 

In order to examine the role that the comet of 44 played in Roman politics, it is first necessary to evaluate whether there was any comet at all. Though some may argue that the existence of the comet is secondary to its impact on Roman history, it is important, for our purposes, to question whether the comet’s existence in Augustan imagery may have been prompted by an actual celestial event. Such an inquiry is necessary to distinguish whether political messages were created in response to astronomical phenomena, or whether existing methods of discourse regarding heavenly bodies alone shaped the form of propaganda. The case for the comet certainly appears suspect, given that the first attestation of its existence is from Octavian’s own Memoirs. Astronomers, furthermore, would ideally verify any comet with six unique parameters and then use the information to cross reference with a catalogued comet, but the paucity of rigorous astronomical data on this comet from our ancient sources makes it impossible to verify its existence under these standards.

Despite these problems, we cannot  say conclusively that the comet did not exist. First, the Romans were not particularly disciplined about their stargazing at this time; thus, the lack of any astronomical records is not indicative of the lack of astronomical events. Second, the fact that the comet cannot be identified in our existing catalogue does not necessarily mean that it did not appear over Rome. The best orbital reconstruction scholars have managed given available data indicates that the comet likely would have had an unstable orbit that takes several hundred years to complete. As such, it likely would have been thrown off course before it returned to Earth to be catalogued during a second viewing (Ramsey and Licht, The Comet of 44 B.C. and Caesar’s Funeral Games, 124-5). 

So scholars cannot rule out the existence of the comet from incomplete evidence. Furthermore, historical context and Roman attitudes towards celestial phenomena provide a compelling case  for its occurrence . The Romans, up to Octavian’s time, had viewed comets as bearers of misfortune and did not often receive them with optimism (e.g. Cicero, De Divinatione 1.11.182.28.60). If there had in fact been a comet, one can imagine that Octavian might have felt the need for an interpretation advantageous to himself—or, at the very least, as something less ominous than usual readings of a comet, especially in light of the political situation at Rome. If there had been no comet, however, Octavian would have picked a surprisingly inconvenient object to construct in his favor. In addition to the traditional stigma attached to comets, a bright object that allegedly could have been seen from all lands and that remained in the sky for seven days would have by no means been an easy event to fake. More likely than not, then, the appearance of a comet in Octavian’s earliest messaging was due to a real, unexpected celestial phenomenon.

If the evidence suggests that the comet of 44 did indeed exist, the next question we must ask is how did Octavian deal with this phenomenon? Interestingly, the appearance of the comet in Octavian’s early political imagery was not the result of existing Roman discourse regarding the positive significance of comets. Instead, it was a response to a natural event of ominous nature which was then reinterpreted and redefined within a new and specific political context. By claiming the comet to be a sign of Julius Caesar’s deification, Octavian was also asserting himself as a divi filius, the son of a god. Such a statement had two immediately advantageous effects for the eighteen year-old: first, it established a clear legitimizing link between himself and his adoptive father; and second, it allowed him to showcase his commitment to filial and religious piety. 

Denarius minted by Augustus depicting himself on the obverse, the comet of 44 and divus Iulius (the divine Julius) on the reverse, c. 19-18 BCE (http://numismatics.org/collection/1944.100.39033)

Octavian’s bond with his adoptive father was tenuous compared to Caesar’s long-time relationships with his trusted generals and advisors. The teenage Octavian’s only legitimizing quality lay in his adoption by Caesar, and he thus would have benefited greatly from creating additional connections. Octavian had already begun to strengthen the relationship through the funeral games, themselves a public display of Octavian’s filial piety towards his late father. His declaration of Caesar’s apotheosis during those games would have further validated the association, since Caesar’s soul was rising to heaven during the time at which his son chose to honor him. 

Given the love for Caesar that the people of Rome held at this time, this ostentatious display of the link between Octavian and his adoptive father led both the general public and Caesar’s troops to view the former in favorable light and as a worthy successor to their beloved Caesar. This one claim would have been key in helping Octavian win the support he needed from the people and the legions, both vital constituencies for gaining political footing in Rome (Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, 34).

The comet, as a symbol of Julius Caesar’s divinity, furthermore, granted Octavian the occasion to display both filial and religious piety and portray himself as a responsible youth dedicated to the moral traditions of the Republic. This in turn helped Octavian win the trust of the Senate and his first military command, aiding Decimus Brutus, upon whom Antony was laying siege at Mutina in 43. Indeed, the orator Cicero, who had been unwaveringly suspicious of Octavian only months before, wrote a letter to one of his confidants announcing his support of the protective force (praesidium) that the outstanding youth (puer egregious) had raised for the res publica (Cicero, Fam. XII 25.4). In a political landscape where Octavian needed to build his moral credibility over more seasoned politicians and generals, the comet provided him a way to capitalize upon an astronomical event and demonstrate his commitment to the Republic.

While we certainly cannot go so far as to say that the comet alone catalyzed Octavian’s rise within Roman politics, we can draw a clear narrative line between the fortuitous appearance of a celestial event and its appearance within the early self-fashioning of Rome’s first emperor. Though Roman political discourse had previously incorporated other celestial events, the use of comets as a symbol of divinity was a precedent set by Octavian through the comet of 44. For example, Suetonius writes that Vespasian famously joked, upon seeing a comet on his deathbed, “Woe’s me. Methinks I’m turning into a god” (Suetonius, Life of Vespasian 23.4). His interpretation of this phenomenon and the ways in which he used its appearance for his own political gain demonstrate both the role that astronomy played in the political life of Rome as well as its potential to shape the way in which Romans conceived of imperial legitimacy.

Dora Gao is an MA student in the Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies department at the University of British Columbia. She is interested in the mythology and cult worship of Diana/Artemis and the ways in which they inform the construction of identity for various groups under the Roman Empire.

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Colonialism empire Intellectual history Museums Theory universities US history

Catalogue Now!: Professional Anthropology and Making the Northeast United States

By guest contributor Morgan L. Green

Mid-twentieth-century anthropology was in crisis. Already influenced by World War II, anthropologists in the 1960s encountered a variety of dramatic changes. The scientific method and the pressure to be “objective” dominated as institutions like the National Science Foundation, ushering in a new wave of research standards. Anthropologists, who had been collecting interviews in the field (among other things), needed to prove their usefulness as the American government demanded clear answers about the world around them. The field was also growing exponentially, in part due to the GI bill and the returning veterans who often sought to better understand the places where they had served. The result: an increasingly large discipline trying to find a balance between understanding culture and receiving funding for long-term projects. Anthropologists stood at a crossroads in redefining their discipline.

This began what Matti Bunzl has described as a profound reorientation of the epistemological and political contours of the discipline in the 1960s. In 1968, James J. Hester described the new methods of “salvage anthropology.” Hester wrote specifically about how archeologists could extract information from sites before they were redeveloped as power plants or reservoirs, for instance. However, American cultural anthropologists quickly adapted this to apply to human subjects. In the Americas, Native people became prime subjects of this salvage mindset, imagined to be on the verge of disappearance. This perceived threat of loss was in many ways a revitalization of a Jacksonian racial theory that assumed the inevitable disappearance of Native people, articulated as an attempt to “save” or “preserve” Indigenous cultures. The 1960s ushered in a growing moral rhetoric that it was the duty of anthropologists to preserve the vanishing knowledge of Native peoples in the Americas. 

Despite their “crisis,” anthropologists continued to return to established sources of knowledge that non-Natives deemed “authentic.” Unlike archeology, within the salvage mindset of cultural anthropology, cultural practice and history were embodied in Native people. Whether they listened to informants to understand linguistic components or observed community relationships, anthropologists mapped ideas of authenticity onto the bodies of Native people. The intimacy of contact, of connecting, listening, and observing Indigenous people had long been established in the twentieth century as an important method, perhaps most clearly reflected in Frank Speck. By the 1960s and 1970s, while cultural anthropology remained wedded to the importance of contact, Native people had to exist in particular ways to be recognized as Native, valuable or worthy of preservation. 

Emerging from this moment was a massive contribution to anthropological canon: The Handbook of North American Indians. Talks began in the late 1960s, but official work began roughly in 1970 with William Sturtevant at the helm.Originally planned as a twenty-volume series, The Handbook was an attempt to catalogue at an encyclopedic level the diverse histories of tribal groups across the United States with. Each volume would act as a large-scale reference work of 500 to 750 pages summarizing what was known of the anthropology and history of Native peoples north of Mesoamerica (William C. Sturtevant, “Preliminary Note for Contributors” [1970], Elisabeth Tooker Papers, American Philosophical Society). The ultimate goal was to present a concise and exhaustive survey of Indigenous peoples in North America that would be accessible to both anthropologists and educated non-anthropologists. I want to focus here on the Northeast volume published in 1978, directed by William Sturtevant and Bruce G. Trigger, not only because it was the first published volume (the whole project faced considerable delays), but because it provides a glimpse into the contradictions and political implications of non-Native anthropological production.  

Partial series of The Handbook on North American Indians 

Faced with myriad troubles, ranging from missed deadlines to massive rewrites, The Handbook limped along until November 1972. Many of those contracted specifically for the Northeast Volume were gathered for the annual Conference on Iroquois Research, originating in 1945, to discuss the state of anthropology and hear work related to the Iroquois. This particular conference, however, was a kind of watershed moment for Bruce Trigger. Seizing this moment Trigger organized a meeting at the conference to establish the Iroquois as the centerpiece of The Handbook. The enmeshment of the Iroquois conference with the production of the Northeast volume suggests that the content of The Handbook would not be as broad as promised. This became even more clear when Elisabeth Tooker from Temple University was recruited to coordinate the Iroquois chapters, a move that would help secure her promotion. Following 1972, The Handbook began looking more like a professional opportunity for Iroquoianists rather than an encyclopedic reference of the myriad of Indigenous nations who called the Northeast home. 

As authorship skewed toward Iroquoianists, The Handbook relied on already established connections between anthropologists and the Iroquois to serve as its foundation. While there were moments that challenged what was often extractive information gathering, collecting stories from Native peoples still continued to shape anthropological literature. The seventy-three chapters included linguistic studies, historical surveys of acculturation, and examinations of religion, to name a few topics.Despite the range, twenty-five chapters, or roughly 34% of The Handbook related to the Iroquois in some form. This distortion exposes one of the oversights in salvage anthropology, namely that assumptions about who and where Native people were corresponded to the work that anthropologists had already been doing throughout the twentieth century. Anthony F.C. Wallace, for example, assisted Tooker in her emerging work on the Iroquois, and William Fenton’s intimate relationships with interlocutors shaped chapters on the Mohawk. This is not to say that information was not important; rather, by the second half of the twentieth century many Northeastern Indigenous peoples were ignored as sources of knowledge because they had few intimate connections with non-native anthropologists and their cultures were thought to have not survived colonization. Wallace captured this sentiment at a session on culture and personality at Dartmouth College in 1968, using the Lenni-Lenape as an example, saying they were acculturated beyond recognition – unlike the Iroquois, he was quick to add. In this moment, non-Natives elevated their intellectual authority by determining who and where Native people were based on anthropological methods of cultural recognition and disciplinary security. In the process, Iroquoianists continued to shape anthropology in the Northeast, thereby preserving their professional opportunities. The Northeast volume was published in 1978 and the remaining volumes continue to be released.

Non-Native anthropology organized itself around gathering knowledge before an assumed rapidly approaching disappearance, which meant that the Native peoples within anthropology’s gaze were often those imagined to be less changed by colonization. Not only did this lead to the ignorance of many other Native peoples; this thinking ignored the historical realities of settler colonialism and the various survival strategies that Indigenous people, including the Iroquois, engaged in to navigate a rapidly changing world. The seventeenth-century Northeast was ground zero for a settler project that would quickly metastasize. Indigenous peoples in the Northeast have navigated, resisted, succumbed, and reimagined the relationship to Euro-American colonization for centuries. To make a lack of change the litmus test for Indigenous authenticity grossly misunderstood the continued power and resourcefulness of Native peoplesBearing this in mind, we must rethink the role of the archive and what we as scholars consider canonical. Holding onto, cataloguing, and the encyclopedic impulse of the archive(s) are all functions of desire; desire to possess, dictate, and stabilize subjects of study. This process, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot reminds us, brings with it multiple silences that can limit our understandings of history and its legacies.The anthropological archive contained in The Handbook, despite its claims of breadth, limited its scope while defining itself as a totalizing and objective source of knowledge. Taking this as one of many examples of settler knowledge production, we must remain critical of the very categories of analysis that shape our work. To not would be to risk a reproduction of that arm of settler colonialism that claims non-Native knowledges as objective and position settlers always already “experts” of the world and its histories. Paying attention to the epistemology of indigeneity allows us to produce work that enacts the decolonial strategies we theorize.

Morgan L. Green is a Ph.D candidate in History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research examines relationships between white settler, Indigenous, and African-American communities in Northeastern urban spaces, both literal and rhetorical, in the late 20thcentury.