Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Indigenous Voices Strike Back

Me, Angie (taotao Natibu Amerikanu) and Madel (taotao Belau) are up to our old voicing indigeneity tricks. After a month-long break in December and January, we started recording again our infamously unknown podcast Voicing Indigeneity. I'm just kidding about the infamously unknown part, in actuality, we have a fairly loyal listener-ship. The blog itself gets around 10-20 hits per day, and from the email that I've gotten from when we started, we have fans from around the United States, west, east, north and south, but also get regular listeners from Taiwan, Australia, Hawai'i, Japan and even a guy from France.

We recorded our most recent podcast Harry Potter and the 45th Generation Roman at the 2007 Crossing Borders Conference: Ghosts Monsters and the Dead, last weekend at UCSD. I'll post more about this conference soon, it was quite an experience. As one of its organizers, my main relief though is that it went well.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with our podcast and its blog, it serves a number of purposes. Although it was originally started as an assignment that Angie was doing in her communications methods class, it has evolved into an important part of me, Angie and Madel's lives and our emerging intellectual projects. It is on a personal level, a place where the three of us can discuss the difficulties we are facing in our lives, the excitement that we can barely contain, whether in our departments or elsewhere. For instance, for most people in my department they learned that I was going to be a father next month, by listening to our episode, Harry Potter and the Indigenous of Azkaban.

(otro fino'-ta: para hamyo ni' ti en tingo' sa' hafa in ayek este na na'an siha para i podcasts-mami, its simple. (fa'na'an sigi ha' hinasso-mu "sa' hafa este na na'an? Ti sina hu komprende este) Kada na podcast, antes di in tituhun, manmanayek ham kachido (mubi), ya pues in tahgue unu na palabra yan i palabras "natibu" pat "indigenous.")

But these podcasts, more prominently are an important part of the intellectual development for the three of us. Last year I wrote along with Madel and Angie's help our so called "Declaration of Indigeneity," which outlined our theoretical and critical rationale for making the podcasts, and our relationship to the discipline the three of us are in, Ethnic Studies. That document later became part of the intellectual foundation for the academic panel that we will be on at the Indigenous Studies Conference taking place on May 3-5, 2007 at the University of Oklahoma.
Talking or being forced to articulate your academic projects is a very important tool in the actual writing of your projects. We are all learning this, as the podcast has been invaluable in helping us through the difficult often isolating experiences of writing.

We're supposed to be recording another podcat tomorrow morning, with the three of us and Ross Frank, the chair of our department and a member of all of our academic committees. He has been bravely spearheading over the past year a cluster hire at UCSD for indigenous studies faculty. I'm sure he'll give us an update tomorrow, and I'll write about it later as well.

In the meantime, I just want to share with you, a fragment from one of our podcasts. Titled Onward Indigenous Solider, it was recorded a few weeks ago, with the theme of religion in mind. During the podcast, I had a brief moment of clarity, where something which had been creeping and crawling around inside of my head, erupted from my throat, in semi-coherent form. Check out the transcript below.

There's always in native communities (in the United State and its Empire) this strong discourse, especially amongst intellectuals that religion cancels out the prospects for decolonization, or that religion continues the cycles of colonization. I remember one time when I was in a class at the University of Guam, and this one Chamorro scholar she came up and she basically said, Chamorros today who are Catholics are fools. They just continue the colonization, they are just dupes. Because now we know that it was forced on us, and so now those who continue to go to church and continue to do these things are just colonizing themselves.

In one way of thinking, sure she's absolutely right. This was imposed on Chamorros and stuff. but then the basis for her logic is that the real Chamorro existed at that point prior to the imposition of religion, of this Catholic religion, and so therefore decolonization is only about that one point. And anything which doesn't have fidelity, loyalty or doesn't do justice to that one point isn't decolonization, its just continuing colonization.

I remember telling people when they were talking about that, thinking yeah, what's this, this is kind of true. I remember saying, that decolonization is a multitude of processes, and it can work different ways. And so decolonization is also about tampering with that logic, that says that decolonization is about that point way back in time. And if you can break that logic, then you can do far more, then getting rid of Catholicism from the island. Because if you can break that logic that says that you only existed at that one point, or that thats the only point at which you ever really existed in an authentic state, then you can basically open up the future to you.

Because on Guam, and I write about this, but its hard to talk to people about this, but if you look at the way Chamorro identities are, its really the United States. Like patriotism towards the United States is the religion now. Its what governs and structure life, so that you have this loyalty to the United States. It liberated you, it gave you life, it gives you happiness, it gives you indoor plumbing, it gives you electricity, it gives you education, it gives you hygenie. Without the United States, how would you brush your teeth? Seriously, how?

And so this relationship to the United States is structured almost as if its a religious experience, cause if you think about Catholic religious processions that take place, and still take place on Guam, there's also the procession of Liberation Day on Guam. Where this massive parade, and there's the spectacles of carnivals and beauty pageants, to celebrate the United States return in World War II.

And so, basically, I'm more interested in, rather than in terms of getting rid of religion, is getting rid of that point where the United States sits at the end of history, as the God that dictates future. The God that controls future. The one that says that you are ready for sovereignty, you are ready to be prosperous now, you are ready for life.

And the only way that you can do that, is by breaking and decolonizing that logic that says decolonization or decolonizing experience is about retrieving that point way back in the past, where anthropologists, where historians, where sociologists, where whoever says that you actually existed.

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