Saturday, October 28, 2006

What does Voicing Indigeneity have to do with Decolonizing Guam?

I've been busy lately, in so many different ways, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospec of just trying to write about all of it.

So instead of doing so, then I just thought I'd let everyone know about the two other blogs that I help run.

The Decolonize Guam blog was created several months ago to support the Peace and Justice for Guam Petition.

The desire behind the Peace and Justice for Guam Petition is simple. Right now the United States is militarizing Guam at an incredible rate, and few people on Guam seem concerned about it.

There are 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents on their way from Okinawa. They will most definitely be joined by some of the troops being downsized from South Korea. They will be supporting the American remilitarization of the Philippines. There are then the war games, the first of which, Valiant Shield, took place this June, which was described by one news report as a "massive armada." These games will be now be done regularly in the region, every two years. In the midst of this the military was doing live explosive training in Tamuning over the summer and it looks like the military might retake some of the lands that they have recently returned to the families they took them from in the first place.

In the background to all of this, we have nasty chemicals buried by the United States military, a recent report that Agent Orange was indeed stored on Guam, and skyrocketing cancer rates and the recent revelation that of the entire population of Guam only 5.3% of it is over the age of 65! We also see nuclear posturing between North Korea and the United States which threatens to wipe Guam from the face of the earth.

In this typhoon of militarization, disease and looming death, the purpose of this petition is simple, a call for peace and negotiation, rather than aggression and actions in order to assert dominance and control. Guam has been a victim of American aggression and designs for more than a century, first a Naval colony prior to World War II, the only American real estate occupied by the Japanese during World War II, a backwater colony economically underdeveloped and patronized in order to control its destiny, and now it waits in the cross hairs of nuclear war.

The United States had made the existence of Guam war. We can see this, whether as a base for bombing Japan, Korea and Vietnam, a possible site for incarcerating "terrorists" after 9/11, a site where the dreams of Marine recruiters come true, and a place where in contrast to places like Iraq, South Korea and Okinawa, the United States is welcomed as a liberator!

One thing that I am absolutely committed to doing is changing Guam's existence and as well as this relationship so that our futures and our very identities are not so closely linked with the way America wages war, and the securing of its military interests. If we listen carefully to the things that we say Chamorro culture is, as well as the lessons of war that our elders learned more than 60 years ago (which are sadly drowned out too often by meaningless American patriotism), then we should realize that another future is not just desirable, but necessary. The route which America unfortunately seems set upon, will lead no doubt lead to the apocalypse that Bush and many other Christians are pining for. As I often say with a saddened sarcasm, we need to work to help change the course of this world (and the US in particular), before our island is vaporized in a nuclear war or swallowed up by the ocean because of global warming.

The Decolonize Guam blog exists to provide information on the different forms of military impact that are taking place in Guam and the Pacific right now, so that we can be informed of the ways we are being used and the ways justice continues to be denied to Chamorros and others on Guam.

The second blog is Voicing Indigeneity and is a joint work in progress effort between myself and Angela Morrill (Modoc-Klamath) and Madelsar Tmetuchl Ngiraingas from Belau/Palau, all of us currently graduate students in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

In response to the general lack of any recognition of indigenous communities, histories, struggles and epistemologies in contemporary Ethnic Studies, the three of us are working our daggans off this year to make some sort of productive intervention into making a place for Native and indigenous scholars in this sort of discipline.

At the beginning of this year, our department made a good shift in terms of the coordinates of its theoretical enterprise, by making space for indigenous epsitemologies and post colonial critiques in their vision statement. Me, Madel and Angie are very much interested in exploiting that incipient space and order to make Ethnic Studies relevant to the millions of people throughout the world who lie beneath the nation, between nations and therefore find themselves trapped by both i manapa'ka yan i manggaikulot siha in disgustingly placcid legal mazes such as The Insular Cases, for the off-shore territories of the US or what two scholars refer to as The Road for Native Americans, these fictional, convoluted domains merely a reinvention of the concept of a historical waiting room, where those considered to be outside of History waiting, eternally for a number which will never be called.

As I've often lamented on this blog, those who do clearly fall within an Ethnic Studies framework, sometimes referred to as the Ethnic food groups, either have difficulty even comprehending decolonization or treat it with the empty innocence of a "revolution which will not be televised." For them, sovereignty is a completely alien equation as well.

In order to quickly illustrate this point I'm going to post the draft panel description that me, Madel and Angie are working on for the Indigenous Studies Conference next year at University of Oklahoma.

It is no secret to indigenous scholars in Ethnic Studies, that for the most part the category of “Ethnic” is not meant to include indigenous people. The development of Ethnic Studies has a radical history which while evoking an incredible array of critical demands, also relies upon a desire for a conservative inclusion. While political movements of both native peoples and minorities or people of color, share similar tones and often times antagonists, the crucial difference between these two communities, is the location of sovereignty within their political articulations. Save for a few remarkable exceptions, Ethnic Studies has largely been a demand for inclusion within the American nation and a chance to help “color” its national subject. The theoretical framework for indigenous peoples is not simply self-determination within the cultural realm alone, but rather sovereignty and self-determination within the political as well, demands which cannot be met with any simple inclusion.

The goal of this panel is twofold. First: To showcase the work of three indigenous graduate students from the United States and the Pacific who are currently knee deep in the Ethnic Studies Ph.D. program at University of California, San Diego. Second: To create a conversation over what, if any, the critical possibilities for native scholars who decided to chose an Ethnic Studies department or framework for their scholarly work.

My particular paper for this panel is as follows:

Given the ethnic/national limitations of the foundation of Ethnic Studies as a discipline, does this fact preclude doing work that constructively and productively articulate decolonization in terms of indigenous struggles? Absolutely not, however it does take some subtle manipulations, some necessary bending and breaking of some established concepts. My paper will discuss the work I have been able to do within Ethnic Studies, on decolonization from the perspective of Guam and its indigenous people the Chamorros, which to this day remains one of the world’s last “official” colonies. The largely anti-essentialist and occasionally anti-native framework that dominates Ethnic Studies and often meaninglessly/preemptively dismisses the work of indigenous scholars and activists, can nonetheless be useful in helping to rethink notions of where to locate sovereignty within a critical work as well as the prospects for decolonization.

This position does not obviously preclude anything, but only hopes to assert the need for a different analytical lens and framework for recognition and even just seeing indigenous people, beyond the "Ethnic food groups."

In order to do this in our little intellectual space here in San Diego, we have taken on a number of projects. I am working with our department chair Ross Frank on writing up and circulating a proposal for an Native American/Indigenous Studies faculty cluster hire for UCSD. At present there are no Native faculty whatsoever at UCSD and no one who does work from the prespective of indigenous peoples and so this cluster hire, by bringing together departments from across the campus into a commitment to hire a number of indigenous faculty at once in order to create as quickly as possible an intellectual community, looks like the best way of rectifying that absence. We just distributed our arguments this week and so far the response has been great.

Also, me and Angie are on the planning committee for our department's conference Crossing Borders this year, which it shares with the Ethnic Studies departments at USC and UC Berkeley. We are hoping to bring in keynote speakers who reflect indigenous studies and post colonial studies to help change the image of the department so that its not some black hole of indigenous scholars.

There are a few other things, but the main point of this post was to introduce the Voicing Indigeneity blog which is not so much a blog blog, but more so a home for the podcasts that me, Madel and Angie have made and will be making, which consist of our generative and random discussions on issues of Native studies, decolonization, indigenous epistemology and so on.

At present Angie has already uploaded a few podcasts for you to listen to. The conversations are very interesting, although I have to apologize ahead of time for how silly my laughing sounds like when I'm being audio recorded. I swear, I'll be Barry White, with my low voice booming about indigenous issues one second, the next I sound like I'm doing a My Little Pony commercial.

Here's the link again, head over there and check it out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was visiting the blog. In case he wants to do me a visit, I will be waiting for you. A hug!


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