Nov 9: Paul M. B. Gutierrez "Colonizing through Contract: The Settler Colonial and Revolutionary Entanglements of Dartmouth"

October 22, 2020


Monday, November 9

3:30 - 5:00

contact to request Zoom link and password


The 1819 Supreme Court case of Dartmouth v. Woodward—whose bicentennial we just celebrated last year—continues to be memorialized if not celebrated as a foundational case in the emergence of the modern corporation and the rise of liberal capitalism in the U.S. The Marshall Court presciently extended the Constitution’s Contract Clause to corporate charters, it is typically held, to insulate corporations from state regulation and ensure the rise of the business corporation still so pervasive and powerful today. In this talk, I recontextualize and reassess Dartmouth not simply as a foundational precedent for liberal capitalism, but also as continuation of a settler colonial project in the wake of the American Revolution—in part by examining Dartmouth not just exclusively as a “great case,” but also within a constellation of connected cases like Fletcher v. Peck (1810), Terrett v. Taylor (1815), and Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823). I argue that the contractualization of charters in Dartmouth also showcases the ongoing commitment to establish a secure political and legal environment for the continued dispossession of Native land by the Marshall Court against revolutionary contestation over the proper place of charters and corporations in the new nation. This revisionist account accentuates just how much prevailing theories of and debates over politicaleconomic institutions as articulated and negotiated in and through law, like the corporation and the contract, continue to overlook or dismiss histories of colonialism and racialization as peripheral or immaterial. It also contributes to incipient research agendas—such as the growing literature on settler colonialism and race and capitalism in political science, the law and political economy movement in law, and the history of capitalism in history—that are seeking to better account for the historical and contemporary entanglements of law, economy, colonialism, and race.


Paul M.B Gutierrez is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. His research and teaching lie at the intersections of Political Theory; Legal and Constitutional Studies; Race, Ethnicity, and Politics; and American Political Development.

Professor Gutierrez's current book project explores and traces the settler colonial and revolutionary origins of the modern corporation in America. ​It has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Brown University, an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he concentrated in Democracy, Politics, and Institutions; and a B.A. magna cum laude from the College of William & Mary, where he majored in Government and Economics. 



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