Lecture by Audra Simpson and Jessica Cattelino which considers practices that seek to create alternative sovereignties, geographies, and conceptions of belonging and intimacy. Funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Tufts Collaborates, and the Center for Humanities at Tufts. This lecture was presented as part of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Global Humanities.
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Hello everyone, I wonder if you could take your seats soon so we could get started.
Hi everyone we are going to get started soon.
Welcome everybody to our final session of the Mellon Sawyer seminar.
I'm Lisa Lowe I'm the director of the center of the humanities here at Tufts and
I want to thank the Mellon foundation for making this year of discussions possible.
As well as the dean of arts and sciences here at Tufts.
But particularly I want to thank the co-conveners of Mellon Sawyer seminar.
My brilliant colleague Kris Manjapra, who's been in the history department.
And the gentle and brilliant Cameron Rustegar who's in
the International Literary and Cultural studies.
Beyond that I also wanna thank the committee of co-organizers who have
contributed so much to this experiment in ideas, that many
of them have organised individual sessions that you've attended during the year.
And they are Amal Bashara, Orly Heather Curtis, Kendra Field,
Brian Hatcher, Adley Murdoch, Sarah Pinto, and Roslyn Shaw.
And I wanna give a special mention to our late colleague Christopher Schmidt Newara,
who was in the history department and
was a very, very important contributor to the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar
ideas and he passed away before he could enjoy the different seminars.
Also I want to mention the seminar fellows who have been steadfast interlocutors
all year long Alex Blanchet, Mona Alcurry,
Alexander Shratec, Matt Huley, Kareem Koobchadoni, and Adriana Zulvadona.
As well as our post doctoral fellows, Anna Cruz, Nidhi Mahajan,
Mark Minch, and Khury Peterson-Smith.
And then finally, Khalilah Tyre the staff administrator at the Center for
the Humanities has made everything possible.
So now I'd like to turn it to I'll turn it over to Amal Barshal
who ill introduce this wonderful session with Audra Simpson and
Jessica Catalino and also tell about the themes of this discussion.
>> [APPLAUSE] >> Thank you everyone for
being here and special thanks to the co-conveners of this really amazing series
of seminars that's here to Lisa Lowe, Kris Manjapra, and Cameron Rustegar I think
when I first heard the phrase comparative global humanities, I thought of it as so
broad that I kind of was wondering how the pieces were gonna fit together.
And, yet they fit together really,
really beautifully in a series of conversations across disciplines and
methodologies that have really, really opened things up for me.
And, also across spaces of different kinds of configuration lands, sea.
Now we have new kind of land water configurations to think of and
So its been incredibly, incredibly generative for me and I think for
all of us who have been involved.
First of course, wanted to acknowledge that we are gathered here today on land of
Wampanoag and Nipmuc And Naragons nations,
among other tribes that have historical and cultural claims to this land.
Acknowledging this history of indigenous presence is just one step towards
understanding our settler colonial present.
And I think another one, humbly, is to read, listen, and think alongside scholars
who have grappled with the everyday, lived indigenous realities and modes of
surviving, and challenging the ongoing catastrophe of settler colonialism.
And this is why it's an honor and a pleasure to introduce two
of most esteemed scholars of indigeneity and US settler colonialism.
Two women who's contributions to academia go well beyond their published works which
we treasure and love and read.
And I think many of the students here as well as faculty have been reading this
work in many different ways over the last few years.
But also whose contributions to academia go beyond that to their valiant
institution building and mentoring especially of
indigenous working class women and other students and peers as well.
And I've been a lucky recipient of that kind of mentoring.
Each of them has also had a complex path taken to anthropology, and
we're just really glad that they made.
I can speak on behalf of [LAUGH] into anthropology I mean,
that you came rather, to anthropology.
So by way of a slightly more of introduction,
Audra Simpson is an associate professor of anthropology at Columbia University
concerned with the problem of recognition of indigenous groups in relationship to
settler colonial societies.
And she works especially with Kahnawake Mohawks, a tribe that has historically and
legally codified land claims on both side of the US/Canadian border.
And whose sovereignty predates either of these settler colonies.
In her research, she explores ethnographic refusal.
As she wrote in a recent cultural anthropology article, as quote,
a stance but also a theory of the political, end quote.
And one that, quote, emerges through her writing and
also through observation of Kahnawake action, but also through Kahnawake words.
And that's a really important orientation, I think methodologically.
As a Kahnawake Mohawk herself, she's had an especially long and
rich experience with the community about which she writes.
And three things that inspire me especially about her as a scholar and
activist, I mean, they inspire me as a scholar and activist, but
they're about her, are in her research she reads about and analyzes declarative and
practice oriented acts of independence.
And through your work she strives to stay faithful to the work of interlocutors and
also explores different ways to use narrative as data and
to write ethnographically.
All really important contributions to us all and
I mentioned that her path to anthropology was complex.
Anthropology as a discipline has a funny relationship I think to well everyone,
certainly to native studies but also to high school is actually what I was gonna
say because I read somewhere that you took an anthro class in high school.
>> Yeah, yeah -- wow you're good.
>> And most people don't right, you know what I mean so
we have the problem as anthropology departments that many students come into
the university not knowing what anthropology is.
They know what history is but they don't know what anthropology is.
it wasn't until she took an anthropology class in high school that she found some
mention of native people in the present tense in an academic setting, right?
And then so you went on to take a class on settler colonialism in college, and
then to do a PhD in anthropology at McGill which put her
quite close to her home community and also field site.
Still you issue important warnings that in anthropology in some
institutions still does treat indigenous people in the past tense.
Audra Simpson is the author of Mohawk Interuptus
a political life across the borders of settler states, Duke University 2014.
This book Is the winner of Native American Indigenous Studies Association's
best first book and Native American Indigenous Studies prize.
The Laura Romero prize from the American Studies Association and
the Sharon Steven's prize from American Ethnological Association.
Its been really exciting to see this book move in the world.
And she's the co-editor of Theorizing Native Studies 2014, and
she has articles in Theory and
Event, Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures.
In 2010, she won the Columbia University School for
General Studies Excellence in Teaching Award.
And she is also a contributor to the New York City Stands
with Standing Rock Collective syllabus,
the #StandingRockSyllabus, which we should all check out.
Jessica Cattelino is associate professor of anthropology and
gender studies at UCLA, two separate affiliations.
And she's the associate director also of the Center for the Study of Women.
And she's affiliated with the American Indian Studies Program.
Her research has examined settler colonialism and
Indigenous sovereignty in relationship to Florida Seminole tribal casino gaming.
Sorry, this is a little bit out of order.
But her forthcoming second book is tentatively titled Unsettling Nature,
An Everglades Ethnography.
And it explores the cultural value of water and the coproduction of nature and
indigeneity in relation to the ecological restoration of the Florida Everglades
I've been inspired in so many ways by the way that your arguments about sovereignty
build on feminist perspectives of interdependence and also make a strong
case that Indigenous sovereignty can help us understand sovereignty at large.
That's a challenge, I think, for all of us to think through.
And like Audra, you do such a fabulous job of incorporating multiple voices into
your work, which I think is also sort of essential to fabulous, rich ethnography.
Also, Jessica took a really interesting path, anthropology, via
rural Northern Wisconsin, where she grew up in a working-class agricultural family.
And in the wake of family emergency, she organized.
>> She saved the day by reformulating new ways of doing agriculture for her family.
And then she became an undergrad at Cornell, where she created her own major,
Anthropology of Narrative, Community, and Identity,
where she also concentrated with women's studies.
And then she went on to graduate school in NYU's Department of Anthropology,
where I had the pleasure of meeting her.
And again, having the pleasure of her mentorship from early on,
and not just me, but so many people that I worked with.
Her 2008 book, High Stakes, Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty,
won the Honorable Mention 2009 Gregory Bateson Prize and
the Society of Cultural Anthropology.
And was the winner of the 2010 Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Prize,
which is awarded by the Society of Anthropology of North America.
Kind of one of the most fundamental basic definitions of sovereignty that
comes to mind when I'm teaching and talking comes from your book and from one
of the interlocutors in your book, who explains, you were trying to explain.
She's asked by a group of children, what's sovereignty?
And that's always a really shocking moment,
when you're asked by a group of children to explain your key term, right,
[LAUGH] And so she's trying to figure out something.
And then a Seminole forester graciously steps in, you say,
to explain that sovereignty is, quote, being able to make your own decisions.
It gets to the heart of things in a really important way, I think.
Her cultural anthropology article The Double Bind of
American Indian Need-Based Sovereignty was part of a collection of articles on
And it also won the Society of Cultural Anthropology tenth annual
And her second project she has presented as part of the prestigious
Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture series at Rochester University, under the title,
The Cultural Politics of Water in the Everglades and Beyond.
And right now, she has an exhibition, Getting the Water Right,
with prize-winning photographer Adam Nadel up in the Everglades National Park,
so really fabulous multiple-media work.
So without further ado, I want to turn it over to you all.
>> Thank you for being here.
>> Thank you so much, thank you.
>> Thank you so much, Amal.
That was really thorough, really flattering, [LAUGH] and a bit shocking.
>> [LAUGH] >> I'll just say there's been a ramp up in
>> It's also totally helpful, so.
>> Well, thank you so much.
So Amal has set us up quite beautifully for
the way we'd like to start our conversation.
This will be a conversation between us, around our work,
and around some of the key terms that you've been working through for
leading up to this conversation, or this set of talks.
And we wanted to start with our own origin story,
not because we're those kind of anthropologists.
>> [LAUGH] >> But it's so uncanny and so
wonderful and so bizarre.
And we're so grateful that there is interest and care and
concern in the politics of indigeneity in North America.
Because when we first started out, there was zero interest.
It was a no-fly zone in anthropology.
It was considered very unsexy by the elsewhere.
we were actively discouraged from doing the kind of work that we were doing.
So in my case, there was an absolute,
because of how, I would say it's okay to say,
horrible anthropologists had been with Haudenosaunee people,
in terms of defining our history for us,
taking control of our wampum, advocating for
the non-release of our wampum from museums.
One particular anthropologist, William Fenton, waited until the elders died and
then published a book on our masks, which he was forbidden to do.
Anthropology was considered dead in Iroquois country.
We were not to speak to anthropologists.
And Amal, Inspector Gadget slash [LAUGH] incredible researcher,
did find this definite truth about me.
I managed to take an anthropology course as a high school student in New York City.
And it was the only time in high school
Indigenous peoples had been on the curriculum.
And actually, it was a pretty weird way that we run the curriculum.
But that piqued my interest.
And then I moved back home to my reserve, and was home and realizing there was so
much work to be done intellectually, politically, etc, that I had to do.
And I started taking anthropology courses as an undergrad.
And there was only one course, by an African anthropologist,
Steven that was critical.
And it was there that I saw the possibility of cracking things open.
But it was, at the same time,
not a time to be doing the anthropology of Indigenous North America.
So I don't know if Jessica wants to say something about that,
the way in which we were actively discouraged within the field.
And I was at McGill, which was right next to two reserves.
They said, do not do work in Kahnawake.
And I was almost the only one that was given an exception,
But there was a non-Indigenous woman, a white settler from actually Boston,
Regina Harrison, who was actively discouraged from doing anthropology.
Because apparently, a dissertation would go up in flames if you tried to do work
with Indigenous peoples, so.
>> And then, on the sort of flip side of that same coin,
I was in graduate school at NYU right before Amal got there.
And at NYU at the time, PhD students had to complete an area studies
course as part of our requirements for the degree.
And I, at the time, was planning to work on, believe it or not,
gated suburban communities.
And And I took an anthropology class on anthropology of the United States.
And I really thought of myself as an Americanist,
in a kind of more American Studies kind of tradition.
So, when I went to fill out the requirements to say I had taken an area
studies class, I was told that class didn't count as an area
cuz the United States, as such, wasn't an area of anthropological research.
But I should take the Native North America class which would be
kind of an area studies, right?
And so, out of that class,
I became interested in what ultimately became my first book project on gaming.
The Mashantucket and Fox Woods casinos had, this was the mid 90s,
were kind of all over the news.
There was this real estate mogul named Donald Trump
who was saying that Pequots and Mohegans didn't look Indian to him.
He was trying to keep them out of the casino business, and
there was a whole new discourse around gaming that I saw as
a place where anthropology could engage, a kind of broader
American formation about the relationship between money, politics, and knowledge.
But when I wrote grants to kind of pick up this thread, when I wrote grants
to do that research, I was unsuccessful in getting dissertation grants.
For those of you who want to do research, it can be done.
But some of the reviews said things like, sovereignty, which is what I
was interested in studying, sovereignty is not an anthropological concept, or
it's not an anthropological question.
That if I wanted to do that, I should go to political science.
I should reorient my project to more stuff on, someone actually said canoes, but
the kind of idea that sovereignty was sort of just not,
this kind of political anthropology was not where,
certainly, the kind of anthropology of native North America side soft.
And the discipline continued to separate the anthropology of Native America from
the anthropology of the United States.
So then we both go do field work.
>> We both did our field work and my study, initially, was an ethnographic
study of nationhood and citizenship, which itself was an anomaly because indigenous
peoples were not to be imagining ourselves as nations, even though
our actions were in the name and the practice of sovereignty and nationhood.
And at the same time, we were being imagined in
the existing anthropological literature as remnants.
And there were still people that were practicing this kind of anthropology and
were making decisions, at times, about our funding applications, etc.
But, I did this study and it was prompted,
as some of you may or may not know, because it's in the book.
is essential question in the book, it is imagined as a central question.
I was trying to understand how my community could bring in a 50% blood
quantum requirement for membership.
It was so clearly something to me that was difficult, constraining,
somewhat, I was, of course, uncomfortable with this.
And I embarked on this study to try to understand its life beyond
the borders of the reserve, because we have a mobile and
moving nation or community across the borders of the United States and Canada.
So I wrote up this study and I was critiquing
existing literatures of citizenship, and this is something Jessica and
I also have in common is that we don't stay in the anthropological space.
We were also doing political theory and political science at the same time,
and that was an uneasy fit because political scientists were, like, say what?
They were just not having us, really, or interested in what we were
really engage with them, what people in these communities were pushing.
So, Jessica and I became fast friends as PhD candidates, and
then our friendship survived, of course, and continues to survive past that point.
But we organized a panel together on sovereignty and
this is an interesting weird moment for us.
>> So I'm coming off of grant reviews that say sovereignty is not
an anthropological concept, and then we go do our field work, we come back.
And in 2004, as we're writing up and sort of, well, the announcement comes
out in 2003 as we're writing up our dissertations that the Society for
Cultural Anthropology, which is somewhat theoretically oriented, I would
say kind of cutting edge of the discipline of anthropology conference was coming up
in Portland, Oregon and the theme of the conference would be Sovereignty.
We were like, this was 2003.
So this is three years after
the grant's applications where sovereignty is not an anthropological concept.
So on the one hand, this is awesome, right, because we're like, sovereignty.
>> Our peeps are gonna be there.
So, we co-organize a panel, and then we put together a panel on sovereignty.
Don't worry, we're not gonna narrate our entire academic career.
>> Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry. We're just trying to set it up for you.
>> We're just gearing up to the sovereignty point and kind of where our
first books came from and- >> Yeah.
>> So, we go to this conference.
We're excited that our panel gets accepted.
We go to this conference thinking everyone's gonna be talking about
sovereignty, we go into this beautiful hotel in Portland that had
these huge murals of Louis and Clark expeditions.
And our key cards had paintings, like a little clip, what do they call them?
Where you zoom in on an image of a Native person from
the murals on our keycards, and so we're ready to go and have this conversation.
And we're, I believe, the only panel in the two days that mentioned
the indigenous sovereignty at all.
And so, many things had happened.
An important book for the next generation, Homo Soccer was translated and
was beginning to be picked up, especially on the west coast, by Giorgio Agamben.
And it was theorizing sovereignty.
We're also post 911, and the kinds of accounts of power that our
corners of the academy had really been working with that came
out of that were about sort of power in everyday life, the multiplicity of power,
how it moves, looking at things like humanitarian projects, and
being critical of care and help, and all those kinds of things was suddenly faced
with things like Guantanamo, and the kind of post-911 security state.
And Agamben offered to, I think, a lot of critics and people who wanted
to account for those forms of power, a trenchant critique of sovereignty.
And so, this was something that was being pulled into anthropology a lot.
But the kind of discourse of sovereignty that was in play was one that was,
It was a sort of critique of nation and sovereignty and sovereign power.
And so, we're in this kind of whiplash moment,
where we're presenting these papers, where we're trying to think through
the political possibilities of indigenous sovereignty.
And we're just trying to figure out how to even talk about this in the context where
on the one hand, that term we're working with is all over the place,
but that kind of mode of understanding sovereignty and
what it did politically was quite off from our own analysis.
It was a moment of arrival for
sovereignty for others, and it was as if they were late to the gate.
Indigenous nations have signed treaties.
The language of nationhood and
the language of sovereignty is actually historically entrenched.
And at the same time, and it's absolutely essential for indigenous nations, right,
for the protection of existing resources for boundaries, etc., etc.
And the ongoing violation of those treaties actually is itself
an expression of sovereign power of the United States.
The gaze however was elsewhere, and the critique was also simultaneously
elsewhere, it was US foreign policy rather than US domestic policy.
So it was as if we were two ships passing in the day,
[LAUGH] and we're very committed ethnographers
although I refuse even to sometimes, as an act of sovereign power
of the ethnographer itself, to disclose certain points of information.
But we're very interested in documenting, right,
the life of sovereignty in these communities.
And, it was absolutely a passing of ships, a passing of conversations.
And yet we were, I mean, it's not to say that indigenous studies own sovereignty,
nobody wants to own sovereignty.
But it was a very curious moment, very curious.
And now it still, I think of course, matters.
And it's still a point of critique, but
I don't know that the conversations even still are there.
So Audra, obviously, also growing up around people debating, right?
And having sort of extensive political discourse on sovereignty and
For me, it was new as kind of everyday language, and it was I'm white.
I was going into, I'm doing this research and
I was really looking at economic life, but as a political anthropologist, right?
Why was gaming such a kind of scandal in American public culture?
Seminoles were the first indigenous nation to start high stakes gaming.
And had, by the time I did this research,
had kind of grown into a formidable economic power in South Florida.
Had gone from sort of systematic poverty, to mobilizing their sovereignty,
their status as a nation, to utilize their own legal framework,
to create, to govern their economic life.
In the context of a state Florida like almost all of the states, that was trying
to seize and hold on to the power to regulate indigenous lives and economies.
And so, excuse me, so casinos were, yes, an economic development project but also
something that relied on the legal status of indigenous nations as such, all right?
Because states couldn't, I won't worry you with all of the details.
But there were limits on how much the states could regulate economic life on
the reservation, in particular.
So, I was interested in kind of what this looked like.
How to think about money, tracking sort of how through
a political process, this nation was allocating funds,
was thinking about next generation, and
how to in a collective transformation from a long time of serious poverty.
Land dispossession, sort of the stories of the Seminole wars of the 19th century
are very much alive in people's families and lives there to,
in a single generation, relative economic security.
Kind of what was at stake politically in that transformation,
not just within families but collectively.
And the more I thought about this, and thought about sovereignty, I realize that
that kind of everyday discourse aspect of it was so important, the description.
How do people talk sovereignty,
live sovereignty, think sovereignty in a kind of very everyday sense?
And an exclusive focus on law or the powers of states.
>> Couldn't account for that complexity, and also couldn't account for
the ways which sovereignty is never textbook, or almost never textbook.
And the textbook definitions which so often focus on autonomous power,
right, sort of a power over land and population,
autonomy that, that describes even very few nation states,
but somehow lived on as a definition.
So, indigenous nations which obviously are severely compromised in their
ability to exercise sovereignty within a settler state, right?
There's a limit that in some ways is almost too apparent to observers,
so apparent that the sovereignty itself becomes,
I think in the larger US context, almost willfully ignored.
I don't know about any of you, but certainly I didn't about
indigenous sovereignty in my civics classes, in my politics classes, right?
As an elementary school student, I'm learning about how the Anishinaabe people
of northern Wisconsin hunted, and made baskets, and all sorts of stuff,
which is perfectly valid to learn about, but never as political players, right?
And not as political players whose grappling with and
insistence upon sovereign acts and
sovereign ways had something to say to broader theories of sovereignty.
Or had something to say critically to what kind of society and
state I was living in as an American, right?
And that, how did native studies and native communities offer
a kind of point from which to analyze American life trenchantly,
and in new ways that was really apparent to me as an outsider, right?
As someone whose story was always gonna be an outside story.
But also an inside story to America, right, an American political formations.
And so I think that, for both of us,
that commitment to accounting for people living this stuff,
and arguing about this stuff, and asserting this stuff.
we are talking about this on the phone when we're making up our points.
Meant that we had a motive writing and thinking that,
really insisted on description in a way that, and
a time that, that kind of Insistence on empirical work
that was not meant to be empiricist, I guess I would say.
But empirical was a form of politics itself.
>> Yeah, I think that's just wonderful to think with.
We're ethnographers, right, so we engage with people.
[LAUGH] And also simultaneously acknowledge the very deep and difficult
histories of ethnographic possession that underwrite the history of our discipline.
So there's a simultaneity about our approach, that's both critical,
and in my case antagonistic.
And, as well using these techniques of conversation,
of theory building from conversation, of observation.
And as Jessica mentioned,
a kind of sober attention to detail and to discourse and to narrative.
This stuff of sovereignty, if we're gonna use that language, it comes from
the lives, and the aspirations, and the actions of people that were hanging out
with, that we're paying attention to, that in some cases care deeply about.
And that's the stuff that Agamben is not worried about.
He's the P Diddy of theorists.
So he's like, okay, Aristotle said this in Greek, I'm gonna web that to what
also Aristophanes said and Schmidt said and this one said.
And he's gonna call together this theory of exceptionalism, right?
And what one thing we knew, and it's not intuitively, but folks doing indigenous
studies also know that indigeneity is the on-going exception within.
And that's not to claim exceptional status, but it has been a space of
wardship legally, it's been a space of containment legally, it's been a space of,
yes encampment which we can transpose onto the reservation experience if we want.
But, it is also this site of ongoing activity,
which we can translate into life.
Or we think this is living, and then aspiration, and then assertion.
So there are ways in which that theory or
that critique of sovereignty that was being performed and circulated, and still
moves in really interesting ways in our field, both fell in and fell out for us.
And we, I'm speaking for both of us, like a jerk.
But I mean, we stuck to the material, which is what people were saying.
Because that's where theory-building happens in anthropology, right?
At the same time I think we're very interested in some of that business,
The business of bio politics, the racilization of indigenous people that
happens similarly but differently than other racilizaed so called populations.
There was a push to make indigenous peoples populations and
move them or us away from this terrifying nationhood status and law.
So tracking that also is important and we do that as well but
it's the ethnography and our attention, we were quite sober and
Jessica used the language of sober in our ethnography to give you materials.
So that you can see how this is unfolding in these communities.
At the same time, I made the choice afterwards, I'm using the Schmittian
language now, I made the choice, to not write stuff into the study.
And I made the choice to mark it so
that people knew that I was exercising a right that some might think is unearned,
because in anthropology you're supposed to always produce replicable results.
But I call that an ethnographic refusal.
Sherry Ortner before me had used that language differently and
I didn't know about it until my third year review at Cornell and
the Chair of the department said FYI, you should know about this piece,
you're using the same language as Sherry Ortner.
But I used it differently and it's something that I've been
deepening in subsequent work but it's partially,
I'm calling it a theory of the political as Ahmal had mentioned,
but also a technique of the political.
Part of what Jessica said in terms of the ethnography of political life and
paying attention to what people say as dedicated observers of the human condition
and participants in political life, is that you, one listens and watches.
And what I saw for years was people saying no, people refusing, people saying I do
not want to be a citizen, I do not wanna pay this tax, I will not pay this tax.
I will get pulled over, I will maybe get beat up,
I will not let you come onto our land.
And this was more for me, and I didn't have the language for
it cuz I was a grad student, so grad students hang in there.
I still don't totally have the language for it, but
I did not have the language for it at the time but refusal captured it.
It was just this absolute line that you were not to cross and
There's a kind of affect to it.
An impatience, but also a knowledge that this is right and knowing that something
is right is based on historical consciousness, memory and experience.
And I set it up in contradistinction,
I think is the right word, or in opposition to the ideal and
the desire for recognition, for affirmation.
As the liberal theorist, Charles Taylor, and others like him have argued,
seeing another as they ought to be seen or wished to be seen.
What I found in Ganawagi cases was just not caring anymore about that.
And just feel like, you know what, I don't care.
It sounds very vernacular, but a commitment
to a kind of an interior process, not mentally interior,
but politically interiorized but also articulating to a boundary.
So, that became part of the apparatus that emerged
from ethnography and as Jessica said it emerged from
commitment to a kind of sober record of things about us.
So yeah, do you want to say more about the sober?
>> Yes that was our term on the phone the other night.
>> Yeah. >> Sober is what we and
I think we were opposing it to breathless.
Breathless, cuz at the time, people were like transnationalism, transnationalism,
let's do transnationalism.
And we were like, okay, [LAUGH] okay, wait.
[LAUGH] >> What are people-
>> What are people saying about that?
>> Sorry it excites me to think about how excited people were.
me I was working at a very different community than Audra was.
And so there were different things happening and
different kinds of political preoccupations.
I also had a different relation to the community I was working in than Audra.
So I became really interested in thinking about,
I saw people on the one hand absolutely asserting comfortably their
authority and autonomy to govern their own lives, right.
But also at the same time the thinking about
sovereignty as about controlling or at least,
if not controlling at least having one's fair shot at relations with others.
So whether it was deciding to enter the markets through casino gaming,
and you know, not necessarily pursuing things that
were going to be somewhat autonomous economic development.
But choosing to just go all in to casino capitalism.
And seeing that not as at the time it might be hard to think of this now, but
in the mid 90s and even to mid 2000s the language that people thought
about in the broader American discourse about tribal casinos was that
this was somehow gonna sort of sell out culture.
Or that, the question I would get in grocery store checkout lines was always,
I'm so glad that people are making money now.
But, I'm sure they must be losing culture.
There's this kind of a discourse of culture loss.
And I became fascinated by that.
And wondered kind of what was at stake in that language of cultural loss.
And so to see on the one hand the insistence that to be able to govern but
also that to govern meant to be in relation to others
was something I had to follow out ethnographically.
And that was to whether it was about market economics or it's about entering
the US courts and kind of defending sovereignty within a legal system.
To see these not as a kind of abandonment of the real space of indigeneity, right?
But as the assertion of indigeneity in political and economic relation to others.
And that really came out of a lot of my reading in feminists political theory,
that tried to theorize forms of interdependency.
So I was marrying young, and others who were saying that, these ideas of kind of
autonomy of self determination and sovereignty as autonomous in
the gender studies context, was very much about the disavowal of interdependencies.
And so this mapped onto the kind of history, the study of dependency,
and gender, and labor markets, for example,
where all the unpaid women's work historically that stood behind
men's labor market participation, and made it seem autonomous.
When in fact, it was disavowing its own interdependencies,
gendered interdependencies, that became a really useful way for
me to think about sovereignty and southern colonialism.
Which is to say that, sovereignty sort of
disavows its interdependencies.
And that, that has effects that allows certain forms of politics to endure and
others to be seen as not real, lesser than, and insignificant.
So I wanted to say, what happens if we take a sovereign assertions that
are precisely about the negotiation of interdependency, seriously.
And how would we both account for what people were really doing, and
not just see it all as a compromise, but
see it as the very stuff of sovereignty and what would that look like.
For thinking about both interdependencies, but
also settlercolonialism more generally.
Do you wanna talk about materiality, you wanna talk about something else?
>> No, I think we have to talk about settler colonialism.
So settler colonialism, like when all the transnationalist
hipsters got shot in the arm with.
We got shot in the arm five years later with settler colonialism.
But, the sounds so bad I don't mean to like,
it wasn't a vaccination it was just this helpful boost to analysis.
And, It changed the way we,
a lot of us frame our work, and also started to do redo our analysis.
So it's almost like a reboot or an additive.
And actually, a former UCST ethics studies PhD student describes this
to me as anti-moral, she said, it was likely we're just bang,
we were bumping into walls before this and she was joking.
But it really helped to name the lethal force that was upon the questions.
So for example, this issues back home about
a 50% huge like anxieties about disappearing as a people.
We're like just this almost seem like fears of cultural loss.
The failure of the multicultural liberal project to govern, and
to make proper agreements in Canada.
It was like failure all around when framed instead when I
looked at Caughnawaga history and activity, and
assertion with the framework of settler colonialism, it made sense, perfect sense.
Not that it was something that I found justifiable,
or I was entirely sympathetic with.
But, these anxieties over disappearing as a people
make perfect sense when you look at, again, the lethal gaze of law,
which implemented its own blood quantum-like logic.
Which regulated marriage and desire around a racialized logic
that pushed us always to white hetero patriarchal forms of governance.
It was everywhere and yet, nowhere, the settler colonial logic, right?
So that was something that just helped us so much, and it was Wolfe's book was 1990,
was it the transformation of anthropology something,
it was something like that but, >> Settlers colonials with
the transformation anthropology, >> Was 1990 and
>> 2006 is that Journal of Genocide article,
where he just lays it out in like 30 pages.
[LAUGH] I know it's moved to Palestinian studies.
>> [INAUDIBLE] >> There you go [LAUGH] it was like ding.
So it really helped to sort of give us some more and
it just moved through indigenous studies, critical indigenous studies,
political theory, and helped us to anthropology to a certain extent,
right, and it helped us to sort of name the enemy.
[LAUGH] I shouldn't say the enemy.
But to name the logic, and then start moving pieces around differently.
And for those of you who don't know, in a nutshell, the theses is that settler
colonialism seeks to eliminate to in place, right?
So, he wants to differentiated it from genocide proper
from an industrialized mass murder type model.
He says, there are genocidal elements to it, but
it can also take a different forms.
But it seeks to basically remove, to contain, to sequester, to at times,
destroy one's sense of oneself as indigenous, but in order to emplace.
So it's also, he argues, somewhat productive.
It's a weird language to use, but it's productive in that emplacement.
He also says that settler colonialism, which was so helpful for
many of us, is a structure and not an event.
And this gets repeated almost pietistically, but
it's really helpful to understand the enduring logics of this today.
And we can point in the state, this is always a harder example,
but now with the stop DAPL movement, and then the presumed failure of it but
also the divestment movement.
That kind of interpretation of treaty that enabled that pipeline to go through,
I see as very symptomatic of this egregious disregard for both treaty,
for indigenous life, and indigenous sovereignty, and
that is settler colonialism.
Life doesn't matter, indigenous life does not matter.
And the disregard shown to indigenous life out in those territories is
symptomatic of that, right?
And it's something now that I think Americans can finally see again, and
that's something that we can talk about in the Q and A.
I think doing this kind of work in the states is very different than in Canada,
where indigenous is not an active disavowal project the way it is here.
So these things are very obvious and clear to see in Canada, whereas,
this is difficult to see down here.
But we can certainly talk about the life of settler colonialism is something that
is, how it becomes legible here, and how you see it.
So, I don't know if you wanna speak to that also.
>> Briefly, I know we should wrap up soon.
But, I mean, you've set out Wolfe's ideas beautifully.
And for me, at least, and I think for all of us, you thinking about anthropology too
and the history of anthropology, which is what Wolfe started writing about, right?
Suddenly I had a language that helped me explain why there was this fascination in
grocery store check out lines with the specter of cultural loss,
of Indians losing culture.
Suddenly I was like, right, that is the constant, reiterated,
endlessly repeated discourse that is about cultural loss.
That's why we're not talking about politics and the political,
because of this way that knowledge is formulated,
the way we disavow the political.
It's a part of a project of loss, dispossession, vanishing, right?
The history of anthropology which went out to study, salvage anthropology, which went
out to study American Indian communities like, before they disappear, right?
That discourse isn't just sort of offense, and wrong, and
inaccurate and exoticizing, or anything like that.
It's also doing the work of settler colonialism.
It is disappearing, right?
It is disappearing peoples and clearing ground in that sense.
And that is a dispossessive project, right?
That is about settler, settlers, settler families, settler communities.
Being able to call the United States home.
And that's about what kind of disciplines, what kind of histories we can tell.
It took me until a couple years ago to trace
the property records of the farm I grew up on, right?
I've been studying this stuff for a long time, and it wasn't until fairly
recently that I thought, wait a minute, what about where I grew up?
And, you know, worked the soil and had this close relationship too.
So, that project of disappearance is something that
takes place on the terrain of knowledge production in kinda popular discourse.
And so, I became interested in the money form, and
why the money form raised these questions so much.
And not only was I looking at the contradictions where by indigenous
people who were wealthy were seen as not really Indian anymore, cuz poverty goes
with culture, and so, therefore being wealthy means you don't have culture.
That nexus of associations.
But I'm not gonna talk about this now.
But I ended up studying how enlightenment
theories of money themselves came out of a kind of grappling with indigeneity.
that's a whole different paper that's separate from the book and everything.
But, so these are enduring formations, right?
Not just kind of fleeting, not just things that happen at the moment
of New England being formed, but our ongoing processes.
And that was incredibly helpful, I think, for all of us.
And then to try to also see how that happens materially,
in what kinds of places, or things,
political bodies, bodies politic, the money forum.
a lot of southern colonialism has rightly focused on land and land dispossession.
And understood the kinda clearing of the land, and the agrarian forms of
citizenship that emerged in the American project as southern colonial projects.
But then I started noticing how people were using,
Seminoles were using casino revenues for water management, and became
interested in water as what would it mean to fix settler colonialism through water.
connects people in ways that are complicated, and so, when I went
back to pitch the idea of doing a project on water to the Seminole tribe of Florida.
People said, that's great, let's do it, but to understand how water,
you have to go north to the farmers,
and water managers whose water comes onto the reservation.
And so, then I finally was able to figure out methodologically how to do
the kind of project on settler colonialism that was only
beginning to come out of the first book, which is to actually trace this stuff out.
Into the multiple investments in water and
land that a range of people have in Florida.
So, that's kinda what this project is.
Now, I'm left with, the one thing I'll say and then I'll let Audra wrap us up here.
The one thing I'm really left with another one of beautiful
Binaries, he had structure, not an event, right?
There was another one with land versus labor.
That whereas in many parts of the world,
colonialism was about the extraction of labor and or resources.
And in the US, that slavery, and anti-black racism is tied, and
its forms are tied to the extraction of labor.
That indigeneity is about land dispossession,
and this is incredibly useful.
He has this other brilliant article where he kind of tracks the blood
logics around the one drop rule in the context of African American history.
And race politics, contrasting to blood quantum.
And that dualism of land and labor has been very productive too, but
one of my kind of questions now is how to think about labor and what it means to.
I'm now kind of working on environmental questions where
there's a constant discourse of environmental protection, or jobs.
Jobs versus the environment is usually the terrain on which local conflicts over,
whether it's restoration, or a mine where I grew up, or Standing Rock, and
That that land is basically land and labor, right?
The thing I worry about in picking up that framing from Wolfe is
that we continue to repeat the story that capitalism tells about itself.
And that it becomes a kind of setup to not think about labor, and
indigenous lives and stuff.
And not think about land and especially in environmental contexts.
So, I'm interested in Florida right now.
And I'm working on Everglades restoration on why it is that to some extent Seminoles
and Indian communities there have had some say in Everglades restoration,
as have farmers, who tend to be white and to some extent Cuban.
But all the people who are laboring, all the agricultural workers,
all the racialized farms of labor that are migratory and what not, in this context,
have no seat at the table at all in terms of the ecological restoration.
So, I'm trying to think about how nature and indigineity got coproduced.
In relations to other racialized forms in the contemporary United States,
and then I'll let you wrap us up whatever.
>> I don't know how to wrap up now.
[CROSSTALK] >> No worries, no worries, no worries.
I mean, I think, that settler colonialism needs to be problematized as an analytic.
I think, it's a clean and clear model that he has left us with,
because he is now gone, and perhaps would have worked further on it.
What it calls for, although it is helpful, and so, useful and analytically productive
for many of us in the field, is a further nuancing with recourse to material.
And this is where I sound like an empiricist, but you know, this is undone.
Some of his mapping is undone by the actual bodies
that inhabits some of the structures.
So, there indigenous peoples that labored and still labor.
The clear binary distinctions that he makes, I think, are too clean.
And they need to be troubled.
They are troubled, empirically, with the facts of the matter.
I think, there are other forms of alienation, as well, that occur.
I'm starting to look at, in my.
New research on the dispossession of stories from people for truth, and
reconciliation commissions in Canada not in the plural, the one in Canada,
and the affective move, the move to a new kind of force through affect.
And the manipulation of affect, the manipulation of the semiotic, of just for
example trust Justin Trudeau's.
Apparently very attractive countenance.
>> [LAUGH] >> I have to quarrel with my
straight sisters, and my **** brothers on this matter, he has many fans.
Because apparently he's handsome.
And this suggests something good in terms of governance, but
meanwhile he's putting pipelines through, that are quite vicious.
So, I'm starting to look at, or I've been looking at
the move towards new kinds of force, which is conciliatory, which is handsome.
And which, I think, is brutalizing.
So, I think, settler colonialism also dispossesses,
but through, also dispossesses people of their experiences now.
I think, this is not just indigenous peoples.
So, anyway, I will close with that.
I don't know where Amal wants to take us, how you wanna do things now.
>> [INAUDIBLE] >> Awesome, great.
>> What we're gonna do is probably each of us will ask a question then open it up to
We have an hour, so that's a good enough.
>> We can talk more if you want.
>> Yeah, we can always talk more.
[LAUGH] >> We'll you will.
>> [LAUGH] >> Is that good, is that good?
>> Yeah, sure >> [INAUDIBLE] All right.
>> Has it been 15 minutes?
>> Yeah, can we borrow one of you mikes?
>> Let the rustling settle.
[LAUGH] Yeah, invite people to eat.
Yeah, so this is also a moment to grab food,
as people have already taken the initiative.
So, [LAUGH] please grab food and drink as well.
Thank you both for an amazing conversation.
I'm actually in a little bit of a bind,
because, I think, you answered much of the question that I was planning to bring.
[LAUGH] No, which is good.
It's gonna force me to improvise a little bit.
So, my question was actually going to be about sovereignty.
And, I guess, in terms of trying to re-frame it a little bit.
One of the things that you both were referring to,
and that we've seen in your work, I'm also part of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar
that has been ongoing throughout the year, if this idea of political discourse.
Were a kind of way of thinking through an ethnography of politics,
as a way to sort of, counteract this other anthropology of cultural loss.
And so, I do wonder though that, I mean, if there is
a concern about the kind of political discourse itself,
having a kind of, I don't know how to frame it,
like a reactive position in the sense that cultural loss, or
the sense of culture will become entirely ceded to an older anthropological model.
If there is a way in which culture might have the possibility,
also of having both, like, a sort of determination from
that's sort of outside of that model of anthropological truth production, and
the kind old, particularly the old style of salvage ethnography.
But also the way in which that particular notion of culture
can also enact a certain kind of politics that would be different, or outside of
the normal range of what we think of as political, another kind of politics.
And so, that's just sort of the way I'm gonna try to reframe what I [LAUGH] was
Very obvious tribal and, or indigenous sovereignty, which, I think,
are a little bit different.
That's a very complicated notion.
Particularly under subtler colonial conditions.
This is very obvious [LAUGH].
But, it's a term that throughout this year as part of the seminar
Like we started with it in the very first sort of seminar that
we have, and it's been ongoing.
In particular it's been exciting for
me, because there's been the introduction into our group of the discussion of a very
large variety of notions of sovereignty, outside of the Westphalian model.
By seminar participants that are working from their own particular geographical,
historical, political, and social research contexts.
So, these are alternative models.
What has kind of come to light in the way in which this conversation's been ongoing
is that there's a certain potential of obscuring increments, or ability and
untranslatability with the term.
The specificity of tribal and, or indigenous sovereignty in relation to
the US, a settler state, for instance, doesn't really traffic well
in other areas of plural complex, or competing sovereignties, right.
It's not something that can be conceptualized in that way and
moved across in the translation.
And so, and then also even remaining in the conditions of the US as you both
mentioned it has strained meaning, this is not a term that
works well to refer to like the US nation state.
You talk about specific districts, municipalities, states and
federal government they're all sort of pluralized in different ways.
And even within the Westphalian model, even if we accept it provisionally.
That kind of traditional model of control,
or rule over sovereign territory, as you mentioned.
Just the very fact of tribal indigenous sovereignty implies that it's already
This is fundamentally interrupted from the beginning, from it's very inception.
So, I guess, both of you have beautifully discussed the ebb and
flow of this particular kind of interruption.
And so, my question is based upon that those kind of
that range of different ways to divine tribal, or indigenous sovereignty.
Graduated, nested, as a third space,
there's all of these different ways of talking about it.
What is the value of continuing to use the term for indigenous political projects?
Is this the term to use, or is there another term that's available?
And then as another question just to bring in that's really, I think,
really important, you know, with that notion of sovereignty what
does decolonization look like?
I know, that was kind of rambling, [LAUGH], but, I hope,
There's a lot going on there in a great way.
So, on the cultural question, the question
of culture, I still go with this sometimes.
Certainly both neuroscience and anthropology have gone through a pretty
relentless critique of the culture concept.
And, I go back and forth.
It's been helpful, although a little bit intellectually lazy, for me to go from
kind of culture as a noun to cultural as an adjective, in the sense of talking
about things like culture of production
or various sorts of cultural distinctiveness, right?
That creating political distinctiveness is also tied to
a project of cultural distinctiveness for
a lot of people in this world, indigenous and otherwise.
And that it's not that you wanna say therefore that is culture, right?
And there are cultures in that sense, but
to sort of look at the project of cultural distinctiveness and
cultural production as ongoing, living, breathing, messed up,
contradictory projects, that people are undertaking in those terms, right?
And again accounting for that is, I think can be helpful.
So one example, I would say about, I'm just thinking cultural production now,
one example in the moment that it could be a helpful term for
us, thinking about the role of social media in the NODAPL activism.
And the way that so much film making and art, and
sort of what all of it has been coming out of that movement.
And has been circulating, and how much that's
been a project of creative folks of youth.
And that that isn't just about
communicating a message, but also partly is the message, right, of this.
And trying to figure out that relationship.
I think it's helpful to continue to wrestle with the cultural as a domain.
It's just really hard, because it always threatens to get
captured by a kind of old school notion of culture and cultures.
And that idea of culture in the US tradition and anthropology came straight
out of a mode of anthropology of indigenous communities and
on indigenous communities.
where the locusts of culture with a capital c in anthropology at least.
And not necessarily in other fields but in anthropology, and so it's really hard
cuz you get in a loop where the places from which ideas of culture come.
If you're also trying to explain and be accountable to those places,
there's the risk of reinscribing those ideas.
But I think, I don't wanna just jettison the term, because first of all,
people are using it in every day life.
Just as anthropology critiqued the idea,
it's being used in multicultural discourse.
It's being used in the in Seminole museums, in Native communities.
And so it would be disingenuous to sort of not
grapple with that relationship of kind of cultural distinctiveness and
sovereignty claims, and the question of cultural sovereignty.
So I don't know where to go with that, except maybe to mobilize it as a site of
analysis that kind of everyone's trying to explain.
And work with it ethnographical,
because otherwise it just too quickly gets recaptured.
>> Yeah, that's great, I mean, we stumble with this
because it was weaponized by courts, right, in land claims in Canada.
And also to a certain extent in the federal acknowledgement process here,
the expectation that people almost stand before their own
cultural genocide as perfect survivors of that, right?
And I'm polluted by having read some of your work, so
I know where this question comes from.
So what I wanna say about this is, for
critical anthropologists there will be a real anxiety or
carefulness about using culture in the old Boasian way to then determine politics.
At the same time, I think in our communities though,
because we are subjects of relentless force around our difference,
there is a need for the politicization of culture as a form.
You use the language of revitalization mark, but
in Canada they're using the language of resurgence.
So it's actually seen as a political act to speak your language to do your so
called cultural practices, because these were sites of intervention by the state.
So on one hand, I want us, whoever the us is, to be careful with culture,
and to not use it as a weapon of adjudication, authentification, judgement.
Which is what it was and still is literally in land claims decisions in
Canada, because of Van der Peet.
But at the same time, this has deep meaning in our communities.
People want to speak their languages again, or
continue speaking their languages, or to play with language.
And it is a right, it is a form of political right.
So that is my cautious answer to the question.
But it's something that makes critical anthropologists really anxious and
not in a neurotic way either, cuz it was bad before the way it was used.
You know, I mean we all know this.
We've seen some of this business.
It was used to make determinations on the content of people, right?
Almost in a racialist logic.
It's like, how much culture do you have, right?
Meanwhile, the state's trying to destroy our cultures, right?
[LAUGH] So it's this really bizarre situation.
>> And it becomes, like in some of the context that I'm looking at too.
There's this really meta way, in which in, say,
in law around American Indian tribal sovereignty in the US.
The presumed loss of culture becomes,
in certain Supreme Court contexts, and other cases I've looked at.
Through gaming and other forms of economic wealth.
They're coded as, well they're discussed explicitly as therefore not justifying
sovereignty anymore, or justifying the removal of sovereign rights, right?
Because if you have this much money and if you could hire these lawyers, and
if you can do all these things, you must not be yourself.
>> You're now a white person.
>> Yeah, you're now a white person.
And that in its whitening, it's not blackening, it's not,
there's a very specific racialogic to it.
And that is still has fangs in American courts.
And back to that loss, right, and
with that comes the not just a failure to recognized,
but sort of use of weaponry to remove,
to disposes people of not only land but of themselves, right?
And getting to your kind of experience and the dispossession of experience and
stories, and rights and all that.
>> So I wanna thank you again for your amazing conversation, and
also because this is the last kind of big event of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar.
I wanna thank again, Lisa, and Chris, and Cameron for
having put together an unprecedented year in my knowledge of the world.
I don't think that this sort of collection of conversations could be repeated.
Creating the space for us and thanks for joining it too.
So, I wanted to ask a question, kinda building on the ways that Mark was
asking us to think about sovereignty in that comparative context, and
the difficulties of comparing through sovereignty.
I wanted to do kind of the same thing about resistance, so
I have a question about resistance and whether it can be comparative.
And this comes from my own concerns about how
I use settler colonialism as a primary framework too.
But I also have concerns about the way that it dominates our understanding of
how violence in the US and elsewhere operates, right?
And I'm wondering if one of the problems is that it kinda might limit the way that
we understand what resistance describes.
It's also a question I have that's inspired by you two, and
this sort of brilliant ways that you have written about something that we could call
resistance in ways that are really kind of nuanced and not reductive.
And it also is a question that comes from, again,
this Mellon Sawyer seminar conversation where we have been thinking about terms
of analyses as sites of proliferating meaning, not as stable meaning but,
as the seminar says, sites of contradiction and convergence.
So the question of the problem of resistance is not a new one.
And I don't wanna rehearse the critiques of resistance that other people have
written about so beautifully, including you.
But I do wanna say that my worry about it,
is that we might find ourselves given to talk about what resistance is in ways
that narrow our understanding of who participates in resistance and
also who's work isn't coded as resistance, how and where resistance is or
is not, and then to what past or future's resistance might be connected.
So the questions I have, I have two.
One is, does centering settler colonialism as the object of resistance
obscure the ways that, for instance, oppositions like a pipeline
is not only about opposition to a pipeline but actually opposition to an array
of violence, operations that make the US and Canada possible, anti-blackness,
militarism, liberalism, capitalism, all of those things are being objected to,
but is it hard to see that because of the way that we think about resistance?
And then the second thing is kind of a question for
us as people in the university.
How can we write and talk about resistance in ways that support or
intensify the complexity of what opposition to colonialism is
in that sober way on the ground, how can we describe that fully?
Can our analyses do more than restrict, or worse, extract from the practices of
living beyond colonialism that are already existing, that have already been existing,
and that will exist after we get rid of the United States and Canada, hopefully?
>> I just realized we forgot Mark's question about decolonization.
>> Well they're related, so.
>> Yeah, they're very related.
>> That's a tough question.
All right, with that, yeah, so- >> Should we have resistance,
>> I've tried to think about, I think it is useful.
I think it needs, but I feel like I'm not I feel like I'm not saying anything
interesting here by saying, I think there are different forms of resistance,
I think it needs to be nuanced.
I think we shouldn't let revolution drop out of the scene.
I do like, it's not that I want a taxonomy of these forms of force against,
or refusal, or however you want to think about it, but
I don't know about resistance anymore, but I do think it is tethered to states.
When I think about refusal, I think about something that is longitudinal,
that is there for the long haul, that is the tactic, and the technique,
and the theory, and the practice of people who have to stay in place and hold ground.
And resistance, I see, is fleeting.
It's like, to me, resistance is the event, refusal is the structure, actually, now.
This is how you hold ground when your ground is being taken.
So I, yeah, so I don't know how to answer your question.
Maybe I'm just- >> You just did.
>> No, well, I think you were asking more of the, you were also asking
about the Nation State Project and I think it ties definitely to Mark's question
about decolonization, which is really hard for me to think about.
I think, cuz it's like we're so in it, and I'm so in it, and we're so in it.
If anybody has answers, please let me know.
Because I don't see folks going anywhere.
I don't know that I want them to go anywhere.
But I do think the nation state formation is problematic.
I don't think it's the author of all our misery, however.
There's also the ideology of white supremacy, there's industrial capitalism.
There's anti-black racism, right?
There's anti-indigenous racism at the same time.
These two, these multiple proliferating racisms,
the commitment to a surplus economy that is showing an ongoing disregard,
the body of Trump as the pronouncement of all of this before us with no clothes on,
is a really interesting moment.
But I'm thinking to myself, also, is this a moment or
is this another iteration of an ongoing moment?
So, yeah, it's a tough question.
I don't know what you think about that Jessica,
I'm ready to give you the mic now.
>> This is a total cop-out, but sometimes I feel like it's like when I'm teaching
in a kind of core undergrad course.
I'm teaching in Communist Manifesto and they're like, but
what's it gonna look like?
And sort of the point is that it's not actually fully imaginable in
the present precisely because of the limits of the present.
But that shouldn't be a reason not to move toward it.
And so I kinda feel that sometimes about decolonization and it would be a strange
thing to expect people to have a kind of ready made account of what decolonized
life would be lived as in the conditions that
structure the way we can think, and talk, and live in the present.
That's a total copout, but it's a useful copout in terms of manifestos.
I see Lisa wants to jump in.
I wanna say one quick thing and then I wanna hear what Lisa has to say on
the question of how we account for all the complexity and try not to write it out.
I mean, that's really where, to me,
the most comfortable methods are ethnographic and historical.
Because people are, in fact, incredibly complicated and
amazingly flexible in how they do politics.
And just trying to, even halfway, account for
that forces us, I mean, there's always a violence to writing, and
there's always a violence to writing about people's lives, and I don't wanna pretend
there's not, but people are doing really kind of amazing things.
And I think a careful accounting of Standing Rock really shows that.
And I'm teaching a class right now on No DAPL and the cultural politics of water.
And the other day, I just started going through all of the history
of Pretty much every indigenous
nation's getting screwed over water in the United States.
And I found myself just off the cuff, giving this sort of long,
purposefully repetitive narrative.
About the Kinzua dam, the Garrison Dam, the Owen's Valley Paiute water claims,
the Penobscot River, the Animas River.
And I just kinda started going through, just off the cuff.
And then I think the students in the class,
a lot of them are coming out of Environmental Studies.
Suddenly, the ways in which, when David Archambault, the chairman at Standing Rock
said, well, one positive outcome could be the rerouting of the pipeline.
And I think a lot of environmental allies were really disappointed by that answer.
But, and so my students were really disappointed by that answer, but
as I was kind of just repeating all of this.
This relentless narrative, just about water, in Indian country,
suddenly, it started to make sense to some of them.
Why the rerouting of the pipeline was itself incomplete,
not the end of the story, but something of significance, right?
And so part of it is just, I don't know, do you call that resistance,
I don't know what you call it.
But just that kind of, if there's any sort of political formation in
this country that knows how to grapple with relentlessness.
It's the politics of indigeneity, right, I mean, just relentlessness.
And accounting for that, maybe,
is helpful in thinking about comparative resistances and whatnot.
>> And colonialism, comparative [INAUDIBLE]
Because I'm sitting out here, I can kind of see the,
The engagement differently, and I think what I heard Mark and
Matt saying, was not a kind of refutation of anything.
But building on your notion that settler colonialism was
such a powerfully opening paradigm.
And yet also in need of interrogation,
because of its schematic formulation, by Patrick Wolf.
A structure, not an event, a logic of elimination and emplacement.
And so I think what I heard Matt saying is, in that spirit.
Is there a way in which a politics of refusal is one response
to a particular incarnation of settler colonialism.
But is it also simultaneously,
does it inhibit our thinking of other temporalities?
That there's a temporality of refusal, and there's a temporality of decolonization.
And that they're not mutually exclusive,
that we're always gonna be involved in these simultaneously.
And I think that's also very much what Mark is getting at.
This kind of both/and quality of,
on the one hand, culture being so appropriated and
inhabited by a Boasian setter state, Lethal kind of power.
And at the same time, needing to be a site, to be revitalized,
even with the risks and dangers of that revitalization.
So I think they're both engaging with what you've put on
the table with your wonderful dialogue, but not contesting it.
But saying, yes, there is a temporality of refusal, but
there's a temporality of decolonization as well.
>> I mean I think it's interesting.
I was going to, maybe I'll save my question for the last bit, but I'll just,
so that we can get more voices in.
But I'll just quickly say, I think it's very interesting,
cuz the settler-colonial framework has been so strong.
In sweeping so many places analytically, by storm, in a really positive way.
Including Palestine, for example, right?
But then if you think about resistance, you would not hear the same answer, right,
And so I think, perhaps, and it is,
I think about the temporality of settler-colonialism being different.
But I think that questions about resistance might open up the ways in which
And also, that they're gonna find a lot of differences across spaces, right?
But I wonder if, in some ways, if decolonization is about
de-territorializing indigenous sovereignties.
Such that they are not just about, become such that indigenous sovereignties become
models beyond only indigenous basis, you know what I mean?
That would be a really interesting kind of decolonization, right,
so it's not just about one space.
But, and that perhaps again,
the multiplicity not just of Palestine versus Native North America.
But of Seminole versus Mohawk, versus other kinds of models of sovereignty,
helps us to think about resistance and decolonization in different ways.
But maybe we should bring it out to other people.
Well no, I think we should get more people, and I'll ask my question last,
if that's okay, would that be good?
I think that's better, because people are leaving out of time concerns.
Yeah, and it's good to get more voices, who would like, questions, yeah?
>> It's not so much a question.
But I guess I wanted to hear if you had something to say about linking up
the notion of the coloniality of being, to this question about decolonization.
I think it relates a little bit to what Amal was saying.
And then also the concept of de-linking from the coloniality of being.
So de-linking as yet another form of resistance, whether it's ontologic, or
So I'm not sure that's a question,
but it's sort of more concepts to sort of throw into the mix.
As having productive, as having their own temporalities, and
also productive possibilities.
think of Aileen Moreton-Robinson's The White Possessive, right?
Is that what you were thinking through, or?
>> Which I haven't read that one.
>> [CROSSTALK] colonization.
Right, sure, sure, sure, I haven't read as much of that
as I should, so that's- >> [INAUDIBLE]
>> The White Possessive by
And she uses the language of ontology to describe a possessive investment in
whiteness, taking up Cheryl Harris.
But then making a claim upon, what I think she is arguing or
assuming, in some ways assuming.
Somewhat productively, that there is a coloniality of being for white people.
There's a very raced argument, very particularized, and
that's immediately where my mind went to.
Which elaborates and then enacts this kind of aggressive,
very possessive, rights-bearing attitude towards others and space.
That she says is central to, she doesn't use the language of settler at all.
And she's an Australian Aboriginal Goenpul theorist and cultural critic.
But she says, animates politics and life in an indigenous Australia Yeah, so that
is an argument that is interesting, that I think could in some ways.
I'm trying to think about it alongside of Suttler here.
That's as far as I can speak to it, and I'm somewhat comfortable.
Ontological arguments for me are tough.
I think they're overdetermined.
The claim upon being I don't know how to go there.
That's a deeply interiorized claim upon another person.
[LAUGH] I tend to read them through their actions.
And yes, there has been definitely a certain coloniality here that is
evident and still ongoing.
But no, I don't wanna foreclose all the interior worlds