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Indigeneity as a Category of Critical Analysis

2007-08 American Indian Studies Speaker Series

As a category of critical analysis, "indigeneity" marks an intellectual arena located at the crossroads of where the processes of colonization intersect with communities who define themselves in terms of kinship networks, first languages, sacred histories, and ceremonial cycles tied intimately to the landscapes surrounding them. Indigeneity marks a community-grounded intellectual project that challenges and disrupts common constructs such as race, ethnicity, and nation. Those, more familiar terms, pose ontological and epistemological problems for and in indigenous studies; too often they erase indigenous perspectives completely.

In the contemporary world, where imposed displacements and diasporas, volatile borders, and coerced exiles confuse and obliterate human perspectives, "indigeneity" holds the promise of illuminating and reframing questions of place, space, movement, and belonging. Thus, this reading group provides occasion to address several questions. For instance, how does "indigenous" signify and challenge the historical and material conditions of colonization, industrialism, and globalization? In what ways does indigeneity permit the remapping of state sovereignty, or the hegemony of multinational institutions? How does indigeneity function as a political, geographical, or theoretical category and how does bringing indigeneity to the fore in fields such as anthropology, communications studies, literary studies, gender and women's studies, history, landscape architecture, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, racialized communities studies, and sociology allow for new intellectual relationships in the humanities?

Finally, what are the responsibilities of university-based American Indian Studies scholars to engage legacies of imperialism in which our lands, resources, and intellectual traditions have been appropriated and redeployed as the foundation for state power? Engaging critically with indigeneity as a site of intellectual inquiry allows scholars interested in social justice to radically address discourses that underpin colonial institutions.

Speakers for the Series include:

Support for this series is provided by:

Center for Advanced Study, Department of Anthropology, African American Studies and Research Program, Asian American Studies Program, Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society, Office of the Chancellor, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, Department of English, Gender and Women's Studies, Department of History, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, Institute for Communications Research, Latina/Latino Studies Program, College of Law, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Political Science, Office of the Provost, Department of Psychology (Clinical/Community Division), Department of Sociology, and the Student Cultural Programming Fees

The Indigeneity Series culminated with a conference, Decolonizations: Subaltern Studies and Indigenous Critical Theory Conference.

Clicking on a picture will launch a video of the selected the speaker


Joseph P. GoneJoseph P. Gone
Psychology (Clinical Area) and American Culture (Native American Studies), University of Michigan

Keeping Culture in Mind: Therapeutic Integration in a First Nation Treatment Center

Introduction: Helen Neville, Educational Psychology and African American Studies and Research Program


Jeff CorntasselJeff Corntassel
Indigenous Governance Programs, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Persistence of Peoplehood: Regenerating Indigeneity during the Forced Federalism Era

Introduction: Bruce P. Smith, College of Law


Elizabeth Cook-LynnElizabeth Cook-Lynn
Native American Studies and English, Eastern Washington University

Indian Studies and Postcoloniality: An Analysis

Introduction: LeAnne Howe, American Indian Studies, Department of English


Noenoe K. Silva Noenoe K. Silva
Indigenous Governance, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

The World and Everything On It: The Creation of a Native Universe by 19th C. Kanaka Writer Joseph Kanepuu

Introduction: D. Anthony Tyeeme Clark, American Indian Studies

Between 1856 and 1880, Joseph Kanepuu, a schoolteacher, produced a body of work in the Hawaiian newspapers in Hawaiian. He wrote articles to educate the public about world geography and to educate young Hawaiians in the traditional language and stories. This nearly unknown writer was one of many who wrote the Hawaiian understanding of the world in our own language, in our nation. His work provides to generations of Native Hawaiians a glimpse of the struggles of 19th century Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) through the work of an extraordinary scholar.


Makere Stewart-HarawiraMakere Stewart-Harawira
Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta

Bifurcations, Equivocations and Invocations: Redefining Indigenous Citizenship in the Dying Days of Empire

Introduction: D. Anthony Tyeeme Clark, American Indian Studies

Stewart-Harawira is at the University of Alberta where she teaches in the Indigenous Peoples Education program. A New Zealand Maori scholar whose disciplinary interests are in Indigenous peoples, imperialism and global transformation, Stewart-Harawira has been actively involved in issues to do with Indigenous peoples, globalisation, and education for over a decade. Formerly Acting Head of the Postgraduate Studies Department at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, tribal university, Dr. Stewart-Harawira is the author of The New Imperial Order: Indigenous Responses to Globalization.


Aileen Moreton-RobinsonAileen Moreton-Robinson
Indigenous Studies, Queensland University of Technology

White Possession: The Legacy of Cook's Choice

Introduction: David Roediger, Kendrick C. Babcock Professor of History

Captain Cook looms large in the Australian imaginary as an iconic figure. His name is synonymous with "discovering" Australia and his reputation has grown over time as the West's greatest seafarer. As an enduring icon his face is displayed on water bottles, plates and other paraphernalia in Australian popular culture. As an historical figure he is placed at the beginning of Australian history (Healy 1997:2). Within the academy there is an impressive array of literature about Captain Cook, his voyages and his death. While this paper is also concerned with Captain Cook it seeks to explore why, despite instructions to the contrary, he took possession of Australia without the consent of Indigenous people. I argue that the transition from feudalism to modernity produced a new property owning subject into history ontologically grounding possessiveness as constitutive of the structure of white subjectivity which was enabled epistemologically by the social contract. I further argue that white possession continues to function socio-discursively as an inhibitor reducing the capacity for Indigenous people to be recognised ontologically as possessing a will, as property owning subjects within the nation.