All _Essays

Reclaiming Possession: A Critique of the Discourse of Dispossession in Indigenous Studies (Corrected Version)

1_Introduction Indigeneity is more or less universally defined by claims concerning the experience of dispossession of land and culture, and indigenous critique is defined by a range of different claims concerning how this condition of dispossession can best be responded to, by indigenous peoples themselves, as well as by anyone concerned with the present plights of indigenous peoples. There are, of course, multiple differences between indigenous peoples, and ‘being indigenous’ means different things to different peoples. This reality is testified to, also, in the multiplicity of ways in which dispossession has been experienced among indigenous peoples, in different regions of the world, and in different historical periods. Possession, too, has meant different things to different indigenous peoples in different times and places. Prior to Mexican independence, indigenous communities of Colonial Mexico made use of colonial judicial mechanisms to defend their traditional land rights — a quite different form of possession compared with that of indigenous communities in North America. However, in spite of this multiplicity of ways in which dispossession has been experienced, and in spite of the multiplicity of possession as a practice, there is an overriding assumption that being indigenous is to have in some way undergone dispossession, and to be dispossessed. In response to the assumed universality of this condition, some argue for the return of land into indigenous possession, while many others argue that indigenous ways of life are intrinsically hostile to the very practice of possession, which is seen to emanate from a specifically Western way of life. This essay is especially interested in forms of critique that valorize the condition of indigenous dispossession as a foundation for rethinking not just the futures of indigenous peoples, but the future of the West and all societies globally. Do indigenous peoples offer alternative models of existence that non-indigenous peoples might learn from in order to overcome the possessive ways of being that have caused so much damage? In contrast to Western modernity, it is claimed that indigenous peoples have no interest in turning their world into property. An indigenous approach to life and world starts from the principle, it is said, that “we belong to the world, the world does not belong to us.” The task is one of learning to live with the land, in the understanding that we are possessed by it, rather than it belonging to us for our own use and benefit. Indigenous critique…

Reclaiming Possession: A Critique of the Discourse of Dispossession in Indigenous Studies

Indigeneity is more or less universally defined by claims concerning the experience of dispossession of land and culture, and indigenous critique is defined by a range of different claims concerning how this condition of dispossession can best be responded to, by indigenous peoples themselves, as well as by anyone concerned with the present plights of indigenous peoples. There are, of course, multiple differences between indigenous peoples, […]

A World Without Norms

Historicizing Critique and Postcritique

In May 2019, I attended and spoke at a conference — “Reading in the Age of Trump: The Politics and Possibility of Literary Studies Now” — hosted by Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. As the organizers explain, the conference aimed to “historicize the past two decades in literary criticism in order to examine its present politics and future possibility.” [1] Over the course of three days, the conference participants identified many of the twenty-first century’s […]

Exploring Surveillance Culture

It seems to make sense — though it might be annoying — when you receive internet ads that seem to match your interests, just after you clicked on a site for household tools or exotic vacations. This is a commonplace, unremarkable online event in the early twenty-first century. But what about old-fashioned email? Can corporate surveillance track you there? Surely. Commercial emails contain a high density of third-party trackers. [1] […]