Native Studies

New Books in November

This month, we’re offering a cornucopia of fresh titles in anthropology, media studies, sociology, history, native and indigenous studies, and more. Take a look at all of these exciting new books available in November!

978-1-4780-0649-7_prWhat does it mean to be a decolonial tourist? We are excited to present our first travel guide book,  Detours, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez.  In the book artists, activists, and scholars redirect readers from the fantasy of Hawai‘i as a tropical paradise and tourist destination toward a multilayered and holistic engagement with Hawai‘i’s culture, complex history, and the effects of colonialism. We’ll have lots of copies at the American Studies Association meeting in Honolulu later this month.

Mark Goodale’s ethnographic study of Bolivian politics and society between 2006 and 2015, A Revolution in Fragments, reveals the fragmentary and contested nature of the country’s radical experiments in pluralism, ethnic politics, and socioeconomic planning.colonialism.

In The Politics of Taste Ana María Reyes examines how the polarizing art of Beatriz González disrupted Cold War aesthetic discourses and the politics of class and modernization in 1960s Colombia.

Nicholas D’Avella offers an ethnographic reflection on the value of buildings in post-crisis Buenos Aires in Concrete Dreams, showing how everyday practices transform buildings into politically, economically, and socially consequential objects, and arguing that such local forms of value and practice suggest possibilities for building better futures.

In his engaging and moving book, Honeypot, E. Patrick Johnson combines magical realism, poetry, and performative writing to bear witness to the real-life stories of black southern queer women in ways that reveal the complexity of identity and the challenges these women face. Johnson is on a book tour for Honeypot. Look for a post later this month with all the dates.

In Trans Exploits Jian Neo Chen examines how contemporary trans of color artists are tracking and resisting their displacement and social marginalization through new forms of cultural expression, performance, and activism.

 

In Punctuations Michael J. Shapiro examines how the use of punctuation—conceived not as a series of marks but as a metaphor for the ways in which artistic genres engage with intelligibility—in art opens pathways for thinking through the possibilities for oppositional politics.

In a meditation on loss, inheritance, and survival, The Unspoken as Heritage, renowned historian Harry Harootunian explores the Armenian genocide’s multigenerational afterlives that remain at the heart of the Armenian diaspora by sketching the everyday lives of his parents, who escaped the genocide in the 1910s.

Tyler Denmead critically examines his role as the founder of New Urban Arts—a nonprofit arts program for young people of color in Providence, Rhode Island—and how despite its success, it unintentionally contributed to Providence’s urban renewal efforts, gentrification, and the displacement of people of color in The Creative Underclass.

Kamari Maxine Clarke explores the African Union’s pushback against the International Criminal Court in order to theorize affect’s role in shaping forms of justice in Affective Justice.

In Before the Flood, Jacob Blanc examines the creation of the Itaipu Dam—the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world—on the Brazil–Paraguay border during the 1970s and 1980s to explore the long-standing conflicts around land, rights, indigeneity, and identity in rural Brazil.

In Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film, edited by Allyson Nadia Field and Marsha Gordon, the contributors examine the place and role of race in educational films, home movies, industry and government films, anthropological films, church films, and other forms of noncommercial filmmaking throughout the twentieth century.

Deborah A. Thomas uses the 2010 military and police incursion into the Kingston, Jamaica, Tivoli Gardens neighborhood as a point of departure for theorizing the roots of contemporary state violence in Jamaica and other post-plantation societies in Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation.

In Progressive Dystopia Savannah Shange traces the afterlives of slavery as lived in a progressive high school set in post-gentrification San Francisco, showing how despite the school’s sincere antiracism activism, it unintentionally perpetuated antiblackness through various practices.

In Sacred Men Keith L. Camacho examines the U.S. Navy’s war crimes tribunal in Guam between 1944 and 1949 which tried members of Guam’s indigenous Chamorro community and Japanese nationals and its role in shaping contemporary domestic and international laws regarding combatants, jurisdiction, and property.

Maile Arvin analyzes the history of racialization of Polynesians within the context of settler colonialism across Polynesia, especially in Hawai‘i, arguing that a logic of possession through whiteness animates European and Hawaiian settler colonialism in Possessing Polynesians.

978-1-4780-0621-3_prIn his experimental ethnography, Ethnography #9, Alan Klima examines moneylending, gambling, funeral casinos, and the consultations of spirits and mediums to predict winning lottery numbers to illustrate the relationship between contemporary Thai spiritual and financial practices and global capitalism’s abstraction of monetary value.

In Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation, Sakari Tamminen traces the ways in which the mandates of 1992’s Convention on Biological Diversity—hailed as the key symbol of a common vision for saving Earth’s biodiversity—contribute less to biodiversity conservation than to individual nations using genetic resources for economic and cultural gain.

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Mesoamerican Experiences of Illness and Healing

The sixteenth-century encounter between Mesoamericans and Europeans resulted in a tremendous loss of life in indigenous communities and significantly impacted their health and healing strategies. In “Mesoamerican Experiences of Illness and Healing,” new from Ethnohistory, contributors explore archival indigenous and Spanish-language documents to address how indigeneous people experienced bodily health in the wake of the European encounter and uncover transformations of health discourses and experiences of illness.

They also investigate healing practices and medical chants; changing notions of the causes of illnesses; and the language of cleansing ceremonies, bone-setting, midwifery, and maternal medicine.

Browse the issue’s contents and read the first article by editor Rebecca Dufendach, freely available. Be sure to sign up to receive email alerts about new issues of Ethnohistory!

Honoring Hawai’i on Statehood Day

Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of Hawai‘i’s official admission into the U.S. as a state. While many tourists visiting Hawai‘i may commemorate Statehood Day by experiencing the astounding natural beauty and rich cultural traditions of the islands firsthand, anyone can devote some time to honoring Hawai‘i on this holiday by learning more about the archipelago’s complicated path to statehood.

We’ve highlighted several of our related titles below. By delving into historical issues of native sovereignty and popular protest against annexation, these books not only challenge wholly celebratory narratives of Hawaiian statehood but also illuminate the complex legacy of settler colonialism in contemporary Hawai‘i.

In the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) of 1921, the U.S. Congress defined “native Hawaiians” as those people “with at least one-half blood quantum of individuals inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778.” In Hawaiian Blood, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui provides an impassioned assessment of how the arbitrary correlation of ancestry and race imposed by the U.S. government on the indigenous people of Hawai‘i has had far-reaching legal and cultural effects.

Kauanui is also the author of Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which examines contradictions of indigeneity and self-determination in U.S. domestic policy and international law. In this book, Kauanui shows how Hawaiian elites’ approaches to reforming land, gender, and sexual regulation in the early nineteenth century that paved the way for sovereign recognition of the kingdom complicate contemporary nationalist activism, which too often includes disavowing the indigeneity of indigenous Hawaiians.

In Unsustainable Empire Dean Itsuji Saranillio offers a bold challenge to conventional understandings of Hawai‘i’s admission as a U.S. state, showing that statehood was neither the expansion of U.S. democracy nor a strong nation swallowing a weak and feeble island nation, but the result of a U.S. nation whose economy was unsustainable without enacting a more aggressive policy of imperialism.

A powerful critique of colonial historiography, Noenoe K. Silva’s Aloha Betrayed provides a much-needed history of native Hawaiian resistance to American imperialism. Drawing on Hawaiian-language texts, primarily newspapers produced in the nineteenth century and early twentieth, Silva demonstrates that print media was central to social communication, political organizing, and the perpetuation of Hawaiian language and culture.

Nation Within by Tom Coffman details the complex history of the events between the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893 and its annexation to the United States in 1898. Highlighting the native Hawaiians’ resistance during that five-year span, Coffman shows why occupying Hawaiʻi was crucial to American imperial ambitions.

A Nation Rising, edited by Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua, Ikaika Hussey, and Erin Kahunawaika′ala Wright, chronicles the political struggles and grassroots initiatives collectively known as the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, raising issues that resonate far beyond the Hawaiian archipelago such as Indigenous cultural revitalization, environmental justice, and demilitarization.

Are you planning a trip to Hawai‘i? If you’re interested in learning more about how to practice forms of socially conscious tourism during your visit, we recommend checking out our forthcoming book, Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai‘i, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez. In this brilliant reinvention of the travel guide, artists, activists, and scholars redirect readers from the fantasy of Hawai‘i as a tropical paradise and tourist destination toward a multilayered and holistic engagement with Hawai‘i’s culture and complex history. The essays, stories, artworks, maps, and tour itineraries in Detours create decolonial narratives in ways that will forever change how readers think about and move throughout Hawai‘i. Detours will be available in November.

New Books in August

Our Fall 2019 season is off to a phenomenal start with a diverse range of titles in Theory and Philosophy, African American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, and more. Take a look at all of these great new books coming in August!

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins offers a set of analytical tools for those wishing to develop intersectionality’s capability to theorize social inequality in ways that would facilitate social change.

In Animate Literacies, Nathan Snaza proposes a new theory of literature and literacy in which he outlines how literacy operates at the interface of humans, nonhuman animals, and objects and has been used as a means to define the human in ways that marginalize others.

Fictions of Land and Flesh by Mark Rifkin

Mark Rifkin’s Fictions of Land and Flesh turns to black and indigenous speculative fiction to show how it offers a site to better understand black and indigenous political movements’ differing orientations in ways that can foster forms of mutual engagement and cooperation without subsuming them into a single political framework in the name of solidarity.

In The Black Shoals Tiffany Lethabo King uses the shoal—an offshore geologic formation that is neither land nor sea—as metaphor, mode of critique, and methodology to theorize the encounter between Black studies and Native studies and its potential to create new epistemologies, forms of practice, and lines of critical inquiry.

Savage Ecology by Jairus Victor Grove

Jairus Victor Grove’s Savage Ecology offers an ecological theorization of geopolitics in which he contends that contemporary global crises are better understood when considered within the larger history of geopolitical practice, showing how political violence is the principal force behind climate change, mass extinction, slavery, genocide, extractive capitalism, and other catastrophes. Watch the trailer for the book here.

In How to Make Art at the End of the World Natalie Loveless examines the institutionalization of artistic research-creation—a scholarly activity that considers art practices as research methods in their own right—and its significance to North American higher education.

Wages Against Artwork Leigh Claire La Berge’s Wages Against Artwork shows how socially engaged art responds to and critiques what she calls decommodified labor—the slow diminishment of wages alongside an increase of demands of work—as a way to work toward social justice and economic equality.

In Sounds of Vacation, edited by Jocelyne Guilbault and Timothy Rommen, the contributors examine the commodification of music and sound at popular vacation destinations throughout the Caribbean in order to tease out the relationships between political economy, hospitality, and the legacies of slavery and colonialism. 

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Trans*historicities

The most recent issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, “Trans*historicities,” edited by Leah DeVun and Zeb Tortorici, is now available.

coverimageThis issue offers a theoretical and methodological imagining of what constitutes trans* before the advent of the terms that scholars generally look to for the formation of modern conceptions of gender, sex, and sexuality. What might we find if we look for trans* before trans*? While some historians have rejected the category of transgender to speak of experiences before the mid-twentieth century, others have laid claim to those living gender-non-conforming lives before our contemporary era. By using the concept of trans*historicity, this volume draws together trans* studies, historical inquiry, and queer temporality while also emphasizing the historical specificity and variability of gendered systems of embodiment in different time periods.

Essay topics include a queer analysis of medieval European saints, discussions of a nineteenth-century Russian religious sect, an exploration of a third gender in early modern Japanese art, a reclamation of Ojibwe and Plains Cree Two-Spirit language, and biopolitical genealogies and filmic representations of transsexuality. The issue also features a roundtable discussion on trans*historicities and an interview with the creators of the 2015 film Deseos. Critiquing both progressive teleologies and the idea of sex or gender as a timeless tradition, this issue articulates our own desires for trans history, trans*historicities, and queerly temporal forms of historical narration.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Today is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a day honored by the United Nations. This year’s theme is indigenous people’s migration and movement. The UN writes:

“As a result of loss of their lands, territories and resources due to development and other pressures, many indigenous peoples migrate to urban areas in search of better prospects of life, education and employment. They also migrate between countries to escape conflict, persecution and climate change impacts. Despite the widespread assumption that indigenous peoples live overwhelmingly in rural territories, urban areas are now home to a significant proportion of indigenous populations. In Latin America, around 40 per cent of all indigenous peoples live in urban areas — even 80 per cent in some countries of the region. In most cases, indigenous peoples who migrate find better employment opportunities and improve their economic situation but alienate themselves from their traditional lands and customs. Additionally, indigenous migrants face a myriad of challenges, including lack of access to public services and additional layers of discrimination.”

We invite you to learn about the various issues affecting indigenous peoples by reading some of our latest scholarship in native and indigenous studies.

978-1-4780-0023-5Ethnographies of U.S. Empire, edited by Carole McGranahan and John F. Collins, presents scholarship from across U.S. imperial formations: settler colonialism, overseas territories, communities impacted by U.S. military action or political intervention, Cold War alliances and fissures, and, most recently, new forms of U.S. empire after 9/11. From the Mohawk Nation, Korea, and the Philippines to Iraq and the hills of New Jersey, the contributors show how a methodological and theoretical commitment to ethnography sharpens our understandings of the ways people live, thrive, and resist in the imperial present.

In Colonial Lives of Property Brenna Bhandar examines how modern property law contributes to the formation of racial subjects in settler colonies and to the development of racial capitalism. Examining both historical cases and ongoing processes of settler colonialism in Canada, Australia, and Israel and Palestine, Bhandar shows how the colonial appropriation of indigenous lands depends upon ideologies of European racial superiority as well as upon legal narratives that equate civilized life with English concepts of property.

ddeh_64_1_coverEthnohistory reflects the wide range of current scholarship inspired by anthropological and historical approaches to the human condition around the world, but with a particular emphasis on the Americas. Of particular interest are those analyses and interpretations that seek to make evident the experiences, organizations, and identities of indigenous, diasporic, and minority peoples that otherwise elude the histories and anthropologies of nations, states, and colonial empires. The journal welcomes a theoretical and cross-cultural discussion of ethnohistorical materials and publishes work from the disciplines of art history, geography, literature, archaeology, anthropology, and history, among others. Recent special issue topics include “Native American Slavery in the Seventeenth Century” and “Colonial Mesoamerican Literacy: Method, Form, and Consequence.”

978-0-8223-6994-3Dana E. Powell, in Landscapes of Powerexamines the rise and fall of the controversial Desert Rock Power Plant initiative in New Mexico to trace the political conflicts surrounding native sovereignty and contemporary energy development on Navajo (Diné) Nation land.  Examining the labor of activists, artists, politicians, elders, technicians, and others, Powell emphasizes the generative potential of Navajo resistance to articulate a vision of autonomy in the face of twenty-first-century colonial conditions.

In Art for an Undivided Earth Jessica L. Horton reveals how the spatial philosophies underlying the American Indian Movement (AIM) were refigured by a generation of artists searching for new places to stand. Upending the assumption that Jimmie Durham, James Luna, Kay WalkingStick, Robert Houle, and others were primarily concerned with identity politics, she joins them in remapping the coordinates of a widely shared yet deeply contested modernity that is defined in great part by the colonization of the Americas.

978-0-8223-6368-2In The Power of the Steel-tipped Pen Noenoe K. Silva reconstructs the indigenous intellectual history of a culture where—using Western standards—none is presumed to exist. Silva examines the work of two lesser-known Hawaiian writers—Joseph Ho‘ona‘auao Kanepu‘u and Joseph Moku‘ohai Poepoe—to show how the rich intellectual history preserved in Hawaiian-language newspapers is key to understanding Native Hawaiian epistemology and ontology.

Critically Sovereign, edited by Joanne Barker, traces the ways in which gender is inextricably a part of Indigenous politics and U.S. and Canadian imperialism and colonialism. Following the politics of gender, sexuality, and feminism across diverse historical and cultural contexts, the contributors question and reframe the thinking about Indigenous knowledge, nationhood, citizenship, history, identity, belonging, and the possibilities for a decolonial future.

978-0-8223-6297-5What does it mean to say that Native peoples exist in the present?  In Beyond Settler Time Mark Rifkin investigates the dangers of seeking to include Indigenous peoples within settler temporal frameworks. Claims that Native peoples should be recognized as coeval with Euro-Americans, Rifkin argues, implicitly treat dominant non-native ideologies and institutions as the basis for defining time itself. Drawing on physics, phenomenology, queer studies, and postcolonial theory, Rifkin develops the concept of “settler time” to address how Native peoples are both consigned to the past and inserted into the present in ways that normalize non-native histories, geographies, and expectations.

Series Launch: Global and Insurgent Legalities

This month we’re excited to announce the new book series Global and Insurgent Legalities, edited by Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller and Eve Darian-Smith.

Global and Insurgent Legalities explores how law and legal cultures travel within and beyond national jurisdictions and how they become reconfigured in the process. Books in this series attend to the ways schools of thought indigenous to the global South refract and reframe the Continental social and legal theories that are typically associated with scholarship produced in the global North. The series promotes critical, interdisciplinary, and transnational sociolegal work on topics ranging from social, sexual, and colonial inequalities to the circulation of non-western concepts of property, sovereignty, and individualism. Recognizing the enduring impact of imperialism, colonialism, and oppression on legal and social relations, Global and Insurgent Legalities decenters the production of legal theory to include perspectives, voices, and concepts from around the world.

978-0-8223-7146-5The series’ first book is Colonial Lives of Property by Brenna Bhandar, which examines how modern property law contributes to the formation of racial subjects in settler colonies and to the development of racial capitalism. Examining both historical cases and ongoing processes of settler colonialism in Canada, Australia, and Israel and Palestine, Bhandar shows how the colonial appropriation of indigenous lands depends upon ideologies of European racial superiority as well as upon legal narratives that equate civilized life with English concepts of property.

978-0-8223-7035-2Renisa Mawani’s Across Oceans of Law joins Global and Insurgent Legalities this month. Mawani retells the well-known story of the Komagata Maru, a British-built, Japanese-owned steamship whose Punjabi migrant passengers were denied entry into Canada, and later deported to Calcutta, in 1914. Drawing on “oceans as method”—a mode of thinking and writing that repositions land and sea—Mawani examines the historical and conceptual stakes of situating histories of Indian migration within maritime worlds.

Both of these books are available now, and we look forward to watching the series grow!

Series Launch: On Decoloniality

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new book series, On Decoloniality, edited by Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh. Two books are available now, and we look forward to watching the series grow.

On Decoloniality interconnects a diverse array of perspectives from the lived experiences of coloniality and decolonial thought/praxis in different local histories from across the globe. The series identifies and examines decolonial engagements in Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, the Americas, South Asia, South Africa, and beyond from standpoints of feminisms, erotic sovereignty, Fanonian thought, post-Soviet analyses, global indigeneity, and ongoing efforts to delink, relink, and rebuild a radically distinct praxis of living. Aimed at a broad audience, from scholars, students, and artists to journalists, activists, and socially engaged intellectuals, On Decoloniality invites a wide range of participants to join one of the fastest growing debates in the humanities and social sciences that attends to the lived concerns of dignity, life, and the survival of the planet.

Cover of On Decoloniality by Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. WalshOn Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis, authored by the series editors, is the first book in the series. Mignolo and Walsh explore the hidden forces of the colonial matrix of power, its origination, transformation, and current presence, while asking the crucial questions of decoloniality’s how, what, why, with whom, and what for.

The second book, What Does It Mean to Be Post-Soviet? by Madina Tlostanova, traces how contemporary post-Soviet art mediates this human condition. Observing how the concept of the happy future—which was at the core of the project of Soviet modernity—has lapsed from the post-Soviet imagination, Tlostanova shows how the possible way out of such a sense of futurelessness lies in the engagement with activist art.

Q&A with Dana Powell, Author of Landscapes of Power

powell 5 credit Marie Freeman

Photo by Marie Freeman

We spoke with Dana Powell, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Appalachian State University, about her new book Landscapes of Power: Politics of Energy in the Navajo Nation. Powell examines the rise and fall of the controversial Desert Rock Power Plant initiative in New Mexico, tracing the political conflicts surrounding native sovereignty and energy development on Navajo (Diné) Nation land and emphasizing the potential of Navajo resistance to articulate a vision of autonomy in the face of colonial conditions.

How does your book approach and examine the Desert Rock Energy Project initiative, a failed late-2000s attempt to establish a coal-burning power plant on Navajo land in New Mexico?

This is a story about the sociocultural dynamics of intensive extraction. The book takes two tacks: first, I approach the problem of Desert Rock historically, telling the longer story of the Navajo Nation’s decades of economic dependency on energy minerals, but ask readers to critically understand this dependency through the double entanglements of settler colonialism and environmental harm. At the same time, I examine the parallel legacies of resistance and energy activism, which emerged from grassroots leaders who not only recognized this nefarious entanglement but saw how the 1960s ascendence of coal production intensified the risk of exposure already in place from Cold War uranium extraction. Second, I approach the problem ethnographically, inviting readers into some of the on-the-ground complexities of tribal sovereignty, economic development, policy change, and various interpretations of place, by following the work of one social movement organization in particular. Ethnography allows me to examine the situated experiences of Diné people on both sides of the debate—those for the power plant, and those against the plant—as an embodied struggle around science, technology, and the future of infrastructure in indigenous territory. By interspersing ethnographic vignettes in between longer chapters that examine policy, discourse, expressive arts, and resistance strategies, I hope readers gain a feel for the everyday life impacts of large-scale industrial development and their unique dynamics in Diné landscapes.

You were a political organizer and assistant manager with the Indigo Girls, an activist folk-rock duo that campaigns and holds benefits for native communities. How did your involvement affect the direction and nature of your research?

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The national political organizing work that I did through my affiliation with Indigo Girls offered me privileged access to conversations within the Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth, and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, as well as dozens of tribal NGOs, which deeply shaped my sense of the double entanglement of colonialism and environmental harm in Native America (from early 20th-century extractive legacies to later 20th-century impacts of climate change). This involvement not only established certain alliances and relationships for me, which became crucial as my solidarity work morphed from activist-ally to activist-researcher, but allowed me to develop research questions in tandem with indigenous organizers and policy-makers. I came to see my work as nurturing a conversation among conversations, linking discussions within activist networks with similar discussions in academic debates. Later on, in my academic work with the Social Movements Working Group and Modernity/Coloniality groups at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, I came to see how the knowledge work of the environmental-social movements I’d been engaged in for many years established the epistemic framework for my newfound anthropological inquiries into the problems. Aesthetically, having spent years working closely with feminist artists who approached social justice through songwriting, performance, and music, I was tuned in to the ways that expressive and sonic arts flowed through Diné and other indigenous environmental justice movements; this orientation provided me with a much-needed balance to my emphasis on the policy and political economy of energy. Last, years of assisting with the production of community-based and larger market-based benefit concerts confirmed for me the power of spectacle and affect in public education and outreach, and I tried to enact this sensibility and intention in the writing that coalesced into this book.

How did your thoughts about indigenous environmental activism shift over the course of your time with the Indigo Girls?

Over time, I came to see environmental activism in the U.S. as social justice work with questions of indigenous political difference and matters of territory front and center. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers offered strong models of how to enact solidarity as white allies to an indigenous movement; their feminist and queer analysis brought new angles to thinking about “justice” in matters of environmental harm. For example, although large-scale environmental organizations were brought to task by grassroots groups of color a few decades ago (see the “Letter to the Group of Ten” authored by the Southwest Organizing Project, and others), changing public discourse on the racialized and gendered dimensions of environmental risk is still pretty poorly understood among wider publics. We were focusing on solutions: supporting community-led and tribal government-led wind and solar development in Native Nations; but, over time, my thoughts shifted from these national efforts toward the complexities of “transition” work in specific locations. Over the years, I came to see that the national (really, international) activism we were engaged in didn’t always line up with what people desired in specific locales, so I became increasingly interested in understanding these frictions and how building power in particular demanded more specific, rather than general kinds of knowledge.  

You describe how environmental journalists packaged Diné activism against the Desert Rock power plant as a “David and Goliath” story. Why was this frame harmful or misleading?

This Biblical metaphor offers no simple alignment: who in this struggle was the godless Goliath? The energy company, the federal government, surrounding jurisdictional states, or the Navajo Council? And who was the liberatory David? Grassroots EJ groups, the Navajo Council, residents of the impacted area who fought back through their endangered status? In the case of Desert Rock, the “perpetrators” and the “underdog” were not so clearly defined adversarial positions. The only appropriate analogy or likeness in this figure of speech is, perhaps, activists’ questioning of the “god” of capital.

You spent time in native communities both as an activist and as an anthropologist-observer. How did these two roles feel distinct from each other? How did your multiple visits to the Navajo Nation affect your understanding of the community and the nature of your research?

Perhaps like anyone who begins working in movements and then shifts in/to the academy, I experienced the unsettling feeling of betrayal: were my newly constructed academic questions—despite being inspired by the knowledge-work on the ground—a departure from more urgently needed, different modes of labor for non-native allies? Could the two positions ever be reconciled? Over time, I came to feel they were not so different, after all: the activist questions, theorizes, experiments, observes, analyzes and expresses, as does the anthropologist, following differing registers of expressive practice and media. Striving to maintain this critical edge within myself, recognizing and valuing both roles, deepened my understanding of the matters at stake and how the “local” struggle was, indeed, a “global” story and critically relevant to other extractive contexts. But at times, these roles made different ethical demands, challenging me to constantly interrogate what I was following, and why. Certainly, the multiple visits (that I discuss through the ethnographic trope of “arrivals” into the field) stretched out over years (1999-present) enabled me to slowly establish what have become long-term relationships of trust and collaboration with particular Diné people, and the project would not have been possible without these connections. And because I was examining the sociocultural life of the contemporary landscape, I had to learn to “see” infrastructures of power (from livestock wells to power lines, from ceremonial hogans to well-worn pathways in the forests) and it took many years of encounters to develop this perspective.

How can activists reconcile care for the environment with an understanding of the complex issues facing Native communities? What resonance do the lessons of Desert Rock hold for today’s activists?

Activists should not start with a consideration of the “environment”: it’s an abstract idea. As Anna Tsing, Bruno Latour, and many activists like those I work with in Navajoland argue, its unquestioned universality occludes the particularities of sites of struggle, in which the matters at stake are often not “the environment” as (we) imagined. Native Nations in the 21st century are facing new kinds of challenges to indigenous territorial sovereignty, often enacted through large-scale energy technologies: this was visible on a new scale, thanks to social media, during the Standing Rock/NoDAPL movement in 2016-2017. As I discuss in the book and elsewhere, activists who yearn for “environmental sustainability” in the U.S. cannot continue to follow the conventional “three E’s” approach to environment/economics/equity: the political difference of American Indians must be front and center in any project of harm reduction or transition. The notion of “equity” cannot contain this political/historical difference or the conditions of violence, ongoing, wrought by centuries of settler colonialism. An idea of “sustainability” that does not include sovereignty, in the case of Native Nations, is bankrupt. Likewise, as Myles Lennon shows in his study of Black Lives Matter activists’ pursuit of solar power, the question of energy justice in the U.S. brings with it long histories of the structural “demattering” of people of color. Activists can take these lessons of historical and political difference from the Desert Rock struggle. In this moment of public lands and sacred lands continually coming under threat (e.g., Bears Ears Monument, Standing Rock, Chaco Canyon, and more), especially with the expansion of energy infrastructure, activists who care for “the environment” would be wise to begin with an inquiry into the patterns of displacement, labor, settlement, and significance in a particular landscape.

Pick up Dana Powell’s Landscapes of Power for 30% off using coupon code E17LAND at dukeupress.edu.

Explore the Artists of Jessica Horton’s Art for an Undivided Earth


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In Art for an Undivided Earth: The American Indian Movement Generation, Jessica L. Horton explores how the artists of the American Indian Movement (AIM) generation remapped the spatial, temporal, and material coordinates of modernity by placing colonialism’s displacement of indigenous people, objects, and worldviews at the center of their work. Inspired to see the work Horton discusses in person? Read on to learn more about the artists and where their art is on display.

Jimmie Durham

Jimmie Durham (born 1940 in Washington, Arkansas) is an activist, sculptor, essayist, and poet whose works are held in major collections around the globe. In Art for an Undivided Earth, Jessica Horton explains: “Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Durham exhibited alongside, collaborated with, and wrote about the work of fellow indigenous artists. He profoundly impacted a discourse about Native American art and settler colonialism long after he moved to Mexico in 1987 and to Europe in 1994, at which time he cut his ties to U.S. institutions.”  A highly-anticipated retrospective of Durham’s work downloadbegan at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles in January 2017; it is now on display at the Walker Art Center  in Minneapolis, and later heads to The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Remai Modern in Saskatoon.

 

James Luna

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James Luna (born 1950 in Orange, California) is a Payómkawichum and Mexican-American artist known for his photography, performance art, and multimedia installations. According to Horton, “Luna’s work culminated a decade of curatorial efforts in the United States and Canada to enhance the visibility of Native artists at the Venice Biennale, the oldest and some say most prestigious art exhibition in the world.” Luna’s corpus of work is displayed on his website; the site also provides videos of his performance art. You can view Luna’s work, including his famous piece “Half Indian/Half Mexican,” in person by visiting the Denver Art Museum’s American Indian Collection.

Fred Kabotie

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Fred Kabotie (1900-1986) was a Hopi artist best known for his painting, silverwork, illustrations, and pottery. In Art for an Undivided Earth, Horton points out that Kabotie “painted social and ceremonial dances from memory as government-imposed education and widespread bans on ritual practices aimed to transform Native bodies into productive labor for the U.S. economy in the first decades of the twentieth century.” Within Kabotie’s early works, Horton notes, this reveals “a persistent concern with maintaining Hopi sensibilities amid displacement.” Fred Kabotie’s work can be found in the Great Plains Art Museum’s Patricia J. and Stanley H. Broder Collection, the Albuquerque Museum’s permanent collection, and a current exhibit, “Spirit of Creation,” also at the Albuquerque Museum.

Kay Walkingstick

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Kay WalkingStick (born 1935 in Syracuse, NY) is a landscape artist whose later paintings often incorporate patterns from Native American pottery and rugs. These landscapes are particularly remarkable because, as Horton emphasizes, “Walkingstick’s artistic practice refuses a logic of difference that lingered in late twentieth-century debates about modernist primitivism, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, and the Columbus Quincentennial, by forging affective bonds with white artistic predecessors.” Her work is in the collections of museums around the globe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. A retrospective of Walkingstick’s work, “Kay Walkingstick: An American Artist,” will travel to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo MI, the Gilcrease Art Museum, Tulsa OK, and the Montclair Art Museum, Montclair NJ, during 2017 and 2018. If you can’t make it to one of these museums, Walkingstick’s work is also displayed digitally on her website.

Robert Houle

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Robert Houle is a Saulteaux First Nations Canadian artist, critic, and curator who has worked to unify First Nations contemporary artists with the larger Canadian art scene. In Art for an Undivided Earth, Horton explains that Houle’s mixed-media works “revisit the entwined lineages of ethnography and abstraction to tell a survival story” (14). Houle’s work can be found in many public collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto ON, the Heard Museum, Phoenix AZ, the Art Gallery of Sudbury, Sudbury ON, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ON.

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