UCLA Spring 2011 – Indigenous Sovereignty in Imperial Times

Spring 2011 ▪ American Indian Studies 187.1/201.1
Thursdays 2:00-4:50 ▪ Public Affairs #1278

Joanne Barker (Lenape [Delaware Tribe of Indians])
Associate Professor, American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University
Visiting Scholar, Institute of American Cultures, American Indian Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

This seminar will provide a place for students to think through those critical theories and methods addressed to understanding how “power” is discursively and ideologically constituted in relation to the nation-state (“settler societies”), indigenous sovereignty, and the politics of race, gender, and sexuality.

“Settler colonialism,” defined by Patrick Wolfe as an invading “structure and not an event,” is a way of describing the operationalization of indigenous dominance within/under the nation-state. It is an approach that attempts to make legible those social formations that are not quite of the colonial/imperial/empire but are neither post-colonial, post- imperial, or democratic.

This legibility requires attention to the specific histories of violence, fraud, and cultural oppression out of which current nation-states like the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have seized hold of indigenous governments, lands, resources, economies, and bodies in the name of their supremacy, authority, security, and democracy. Complex social axes of differentiation—race, gender, sexuality—are key to understanding the political stakes and practices of these seizures.

But equally important is the social agency—and so ethics—of indigenous peoples in constituting their legal and social relations as indigenous and in antagonism with their relations to the nation-state. In other words, indigenous peoples are not the passive victims of a colonial/imperial/empire past but actively engaged as historical agents in (re)articulating their governments, citizenships, and identities. This seminar, therefore, navigates “power” with a view to indigenous responsibility, relationship, and reciprocity.