The Business of Humanity: The Person-Corporation, Community Responsibility, and Native Nations Sovereignty
What can examining our historic and present-day constructions of corporations tell us about being human? In the United States, we have “enlivened” corporations by legally imbuing them with individual personhood. This person-corporation can, for example, hire and fire, own assets, and loan and borrow money. Ostensibly, this “person’s” only responsibility is to generate revenue for shareholders who, ironically, relinquish a part of their own personhood (via business-owning rights) so that the corporation may hold its personhood on their behalf. But who is this person-corporation? And do these person-corporations constitute a part of humanity? In order to examine these questions, I ask what this person-corporation can do for Indigenous peoples, those whose human rights have most often been denied under the settler colonial system from which corporate personhood originated. How does this conception of the responsibilities of a person-corporation change when we look at how communities such as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have utilized it?
About the Speaker
Dr. Courtney Lewis is the Spring 2020 Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor of Justice, Equality, and Community in Anthropology at Davidson College. She is also assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Institute of Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Her research areas include economic anthropology, Indigenous rights, economic justice, political economy, economic sovereignty, economic stability, public anthropology, food and agricultural sovereignty, Native Nation economic development, American Indian studies, race and entrepreneurship, and economic colonialism. She is the author of Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small-Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty, the first full-length ethnography on American Indian small businesses. Dr. Lewis is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.