Sociology Professor Presents New Work on Colonialism & Ecological Violence

November 23, 2021
A slide showing the title, Linked Political Ecologies of Colonial Exploitation

Zeke Baker, Assistant Professor of Sociology, recently presented a paper, titled “Linked Political Ecologies of Colonial Exploitation: The Pribilof Islands-San Francisco Bay Area Connection,” at the Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association in Philadelphia. Baker focuses on the period from 1850 to 1900, first showing how California Gold Rush-era financiers accumulated capital through exploitation of natural resources, a process related to settler colonialism and genocide in the region. Second, he shows how these same financiers exploited Indigenous labor, seals, and the larger ecology of the Bering Sea, upon the purchase of Alaska by the U.S. in 1867. Finally, Baker analyzes the reinvestment of capital derived from this process in real estate and land development, with a focus on the Napa Valley. The takeaway? As Baker puts it, "we need a new historical narrative regarding the intersection of capital accumulation, colonialism, and ecology—the awesome and destructive flows of life and things that, I believe, is worth confronting." As a long-term project, Baker aims to relate this historical account to ongoing struggles regarding environmental justice.

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