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Open Access Publications from the University of California

‘Things are on a new scale, the standard one brings with him will not hold’: Land and Race in Edward Curtis’ Landscape Photography of the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899

The data associated with this publication are within the manuscript.

Due to the unique colonial history of Alaska, Alaska Native peoples find themselves operating and engaging in a set of conditions that diverge from many experiences of Native peoples in the contiguous U.S. This paper explores some of those differences by tracking how questions of land and concerns about race were made together in Alaska from 1867-1899. I argue that the discursive formations of land definitions and the racialization of Alaska Native peoples as “of Asian descent” are mutually constitutive in ways that draw from prior configurations of racialization via geography. I do so by looking at racialized federal policy, geographical and geological surveys of land, and photographs of landscape as curated by Edward Curtis on the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899. Drawing from these materials, I argue that land and race in Alaska are co-constituted through law, geography, and popular culture and that the accumulation of these colonial impositions continues to inform the current political status of Alaska Native peoples and the ongoing dispossession of land. 

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