Theorizing Native Studies

Theorizing Native Studies

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 5 photographs Published: May 2014

American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

This important collection makes a compelling argument for the importance of theory in Native studies. Within the field, there has been understandable suspicion of theory stemming both from concerns about urgent political issues needing to take precedence over theoretical speculations and from hostility toward theory as an inherently Western, imperialist epistemology. The editors of Theorizing Native Studies take these concerns as the ground for recasting theoretical endeavors as attempts to identify the larger institutional and political structures that enable racism, inequities, and the displacement of indigenous peoples. They emphasize the need for Native people to be recognized as legitimate theorists and for the theoretical work happening outside the academy, in Native activist groups and communities, to be acknowledged. Many of the essays demonstrate how Native studies can productively engage with others seeking to dismantle and decolonize the settler state, including scholars putting theory to use in critical ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and postcolonial studies. Taken together, the essays demonstrate how theory can serve as a decolonizing practice.

Contributors. Christopher Bracken, Glen Coulthard, Mishuana Goeman, Dian Million, Scott Morgensen, Robert Nichols, Vera Palmer, Mark Rifkin, Audra Simpson, Andrea Smith, Teresia Teaiwa


“Theory might be read as ever-present according to this collection, but practice is clearly important too—Native practice in Native ways; Native activism, projects, scholarship. … In effect, the book allows theory and practice to lean against each other as steadfast partners in the Native matters that make Native studies important beyond the academy, double-underlining the Native-ness on which its chapters are grounded.” — Aroha Harris, Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"Given that academics continue to debate the efficacy of theory, Theorizing Native Studies supplies a necessary contribution to the field.... The editors have achieved their goal of compiling a collection that serves as an important contribution to theoretical studies in general, and Native Studies in particular." — Monica L. Butler, Journal of Anthropological Research

“Although each individual essay offers an important intervention on its own terms, as a collection, the volume is a vibrant snapshot of the field while also gesturing toward new horizons of theoretical possibility.” — Hokulani K. Aikau, Western Historical Quarterly

“The collected essays provide a helpful overview of the work of a new generation of activist Native academics and artists, many of them participants both in local community or transnational organizing and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association founded in 2011. … [A] groundbreaking contribution to the burgeoning writing in theorized politics and Native Studies activist scholarship that will have broad ramifications across many fields and movements for many years to come.” — Joe Parker, Women's Studies

"This book should be required reading for all students contemplating advanced scholarship in the field of Indigenous studies. It is a much needed corrective to decades of misplaced hostility directed towards theory in general, and Indigenous theory in particular. I recommend it highly." — Heather Devine, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

"[A]ll the essays gathered in this volume are of consistently outstanding quality."  — Deborah L. Madsen, Amerikastudien

"The collection assembles an excellent set of capacious (and differing) approaches to theory in native studies and will also prove helpful for those needing a brief survey of the theoretical state of the field in this moment." — James Gifford and Lindsay Parker, Year's Work in English Studies

"Theorizing Native Studies is a superb collection, an astutely conceived and targeted intervention in Native studies. The introduction is a gem and the essays cohere remarkably well around the core issue it raises: how to move beyond the unproductive opposition between European theory and Native practice, and to do so in ways that reflect and reproduce the particularities of Native epistemologies." — Patrick Wolfe, author of Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology

"With Theorizing Native Studies, Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith release Native studies from the old conventional dichotomies that organize prevailing conceptions of knowledge, such as theory/practice and subject/object. This collection gives us a taste of the disruptive force of a theory that begins and stays with the demand from the dismantling of State-Capital and everything that stems from it. A necessary weapon for a critical arsenal that faces the challenge of remaining relevant within and against the neoliberal university."
— Denise Ferreira da Silva, author of Toward a Global Idea of Race


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Andrea Smith is Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author of Native Americans and the Christian Right, published by Duke University Press, and Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.

Audra Simpson is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction / Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith 1

1. There Is a River in Me: Theory from Life / Dian Million 31

2. The Ancestors We Get to Choose: White Influences I Won't Deny / Teresia Teaiwa 43

3. From Wards of the State to Subjects of Recognition? Marx, Indigenous Peoples, and the Politics of Dispossession in Denendeh / Glen Coulthard 56

4. Contract and Usurpation: Enfranchisement and Racial Governance in Settler-Colonial Contexts / Robert Nichols 99

5. "In This Separation": The Noncorrespondence of Joseph Johnson / Christopher Bracken 122

6. Making Peoples into Populations: The Racial Limits of Tribal Sovereignty / Mark Rifkin 149

7. Indigenous Transnationalism and the AIDS Pandemic: Challenging Settler Colonialism within Global Health Governance / Scott Lauria Morgensen 188

8. Native Studies at the Horizon of Death: Theorizing Ethnographic Entrapment and Settler Self-Reflexivity / Andrea Smith 207

9. Disrupting a Settler-Colonial Grammar of Place: The Visual Memoir of Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie / Mishuana R. Goeman 235

10. The Devil in the Details: Controverting an American Indian Conversion Narrative / Vera B. Palmer 266

Bibliography 297

Contributors 321

Index 323
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5679-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5667-7
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