Capitalist Transformation and Settler Colonialism: Theorizing the Interface

Ikaika Ramones, Sally Engle Merry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Anthropological theory has approached Indigenous experiences of colonialism through frameworks of capitalist expansion or, more recently, through those of settler colonialism. Given their different attentions, these frameworks in conjunction provide a more nuanced account of the colonizing and displacement process than either does alone. The history of Hawaiʻi from 1778 to 1860 provides a valuable illustration of the entanglements of economic transformation and settler colonialism over time, showing the need to combine analyses of settler colonialism with those of political economy to understand the emergence of new systems of governance, law, and exchange. The establishment of settler colonialism was neither quick nor uncontested, entailing Indigenous strategic appropriation along with political, legal, and social changes that created the space for settler dominance. Settler colonialism was fostered by the prospect of a profitable plantation economy. In Hawai‘i, chiefs managed to avoid a Euro-American capitalist takeover during the first eighty years of contact but began to lose control as the settler population grew and the capitalist economy expanded. [settler colonialism, capitalist transformation, land alienation, Hawaiian history].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-752
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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