Pro Pelle Cutem: The Subject(s) of Extraction in Fred Stenson’s The Trade


Taking its cue from Kathryn Yusoff’s argument about the geologic basis of racialization, this paper examines how Fred Stenson’s novel The Trade rethinks the colonial operations of the Hudson’s Bay Company in nineteenth-century Canada. Implicit in the novel’s interest in the historic relations between the white traders and the Indigenous peoples is the recognition of corporate capitalism as a founding ethic of settler colonialism and its racialized optic, highlighted in the tropological links between the hunted animals, the dispossessed Natives, and the Black bodies enslaved on the Caribbean plantations. Across the human/nonhuman divide, launched by the Company’s extractive rationale, I argue, Stenson traces a genealogy of dispossession and dehumanization refigured through the Windigo trope, whereby The Trade pursues the possibility of repurposing the troubling legacies of settler colonialism for a more nuanced understanding of capitalism as a means of extracting both material properties and personhood.

This article “Pro Pelle Cutem: The Subject(s) of Extraction in Fred Stenson’s The Trade” originally appeared in Poetics and Extraction Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 251 (2022): 13-34.

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