Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sovereignty and the Problem of Recognition

I've just finished setting up my conference schedule for the rest of the school year, and it looks pretty exciting. In addition to the two conferences that I am organizing (click here for info on one, and I'll have more info on the other very soon), I've got four academic papers that I'll be presenting at conferences all around the country. The most exciting panel that I'll be on will be at the 2008 Indigenous Studies Conference at the University of Georgia.

I'll be joined on this panel by three of my friends, to discuss in different ways the concept or spirit of "sovereignty" in the lives of Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. The title of our panel is Sovereignty and the Problem of Recognition.

I'll post the panel description and abstracts below, since it'll explain where we are coming from better than I will. I've got a lot on my plate right now in terms of preparing for the new school quarter and then all the other writing and activist commitments I put off while I was on Guam. Coming up tomorrow, I've got another article that I have to write for Guampedia, and an article for the activist group YANO.

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Sovereignty and the Problem of Recognition

The concept of sovereignty is something enables, inhibits indigenous political and intellectual movements. It is something which indigenous people, through vast frameworks of racism and infantilization are continually denied. Yet at the same time it is something which they struggle to find creative ways to discover and create. In this panel, we will interrogate from different spaces and intellectual domains, this precarious nature of sovereignty and the role of “recognition” in its constitution and in determining who can “have” sovereignty and who must be “given” sovereignty.

To do this, we will explore how sovereignty is withheld from indigenous peoples whether through the issues of land with Native Hawaiians, authenticity, tribal termination and Native Americans or even the theoretical erasure we find in disciplines such as international relations and political science. As all the panel members are graduate students in Ethnic Studies, we will also discuss the theoretical and intellectual inroads that indigenous peoples in the United States and the Pacific Islands are making, to demand sovereignty or remake it on their own terms, whether through our own interventions in our departments, the struggles of Pacific Islanders on American campuses, or the ways in indigenous peoples are beginning to articulate themselves globally.

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Spectacles of Citizenship:
Native Hawaiian Representations and Rights


Maile Arvin
University of California, San Diego


In October 2006, Japanese real estate tycoon Genshiro Kawamoto announced he would “give away” multimillion dollar houses on O‘ahu to eight “deserving” Native Hawaiian families. Similarly, a September 2007 episode of ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover chronicled a hard-working Native Hawaiian family as their flood-damaged home was replaced with a mansion.
In the last few years, poverty and homelessness among Native Hawaiians living in Hawai‘i has found a certain kind of spotlight in local, national and international media. Fueled by the hyperbole of reality television and a classic tourism-driven search to find both paradise and authenticity, Native Hawaiians are conveniently placed at the heart of these supposedly new narratives about Hawai‘i. This discourse of spectacle philanthropy elides any critical engagement with the conditions that create poverty in Hawai‘i, and particularly fails to address Native Hawaiians as an indigenous group.

While Native Hawaiians can be written in local and national media as distinct culturally, calls for sovereignty are often portrayed in media as outrageous, against both local and national “common sense.” Using the above philanthropic examples that pointedly seize upon issues of housing as an entry point, my paper will address the ways various public discourses silence articulations of Native Hawaiian sovereignty that dare clamor for land rights. In Hawai‘i’s reigning liberal multiculturalism, where non-natives frequently claim status as “Hawaiian at heart,” critical projects of sovereignty emerge on a stage fraught with contentions about citizenship and distribution of rights, in the U.S. as well as any sovereign alternative.

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Decolonizing Klamath Termination:
Colonialism, Factionalism and Authenticity


Angela Morrill
University of California, San Diego


The Klamath Termination Act, P.L. 587 was a federal policy passed into law in 1954 whose stated purpose was to end federal services and supervision of the Klamath Tribe in Oregon. The Klamath were represented to Congress as assimilated, and “one of the most advanced Indian groups in the United States.” Later, a report by the Stanford Research Institute determined termination would be detrimental to the tribe yet termination was enacted in 1961. In 1986 the Klamath tribe was restored and once again federally recognized but without recovering their land base. By examining the impact of colonialism on the discussion of factionalism in books and articles about Klamath termination, I argue that the differences between Klamath tribal members were not only historic and political but based on strategic differences. Why is factionalism a prominent characterization of Native Americans? What effect did the characterization of the Klamath as factionalized have on the tribe at the time of termination and beyond? The Klamath tribe was restored to federal recognition in 1986, but disenrollment is a problem with gaming tribes in California, and the threat of termination is not a thing of the past, since it was recently suggested by California Congresswoman Diane Watson as retribution for the Cherokee disenrollment of the descendents of the Freedmen. I argue that answers to these issues of authenticity may lie in recognition of indigeneity as global, persistent, and focused on the struggle for human rights as well as sovereignty.

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A Critique from the Dots on the Map of American Sovereignty or
…George W. Bush as a Theorist of Sovereignty

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
University of California, San Diego


For those who today form nations which are not nation-states, which are nations within nation or colonies, the dominant definitions of sovereignty place them in a potentially precarious and powerless position. Sovereignty, in the sense that we find as defined by international relations and political science is obsessed with states and with modern frameworks which were developed through the explicit exclusion of indigenous peoples. These definitions recognize only one true authority within every territory, and thus indigenous people and their aspirations and struggles become reduced to minute details or exceptions, which irritate the sovereignty of the formal state, but mean little else.

Therefore, if we look at the existences of those who constitute the legal empire of the United States today, we do not see a collection of people who are being pushed along a progressive mythical path into modern self-governance and sovereignty. Instead, we see millions of people, forced off of any road to sovereignty, and forcefully directed into legal and theoretical dead-ends. In the United States, this waiting room of history is populated by Chamorros, Native Americans and others, the governing of which fall under the jurisdiction as the same Federal Agency which is in charge of maintaining the fish, wildlife and forests of the United States.

My goal for this paper is to discuss a productive notion of sovereignty for these populations, through the focusing on the exceptionality of indigenous communities today in relation to the constitution of modern nation-states.

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Indians, Islanders and Indigeneity:
The Pacific Islander Movement at UC Berkeley

Michael Gumataotao Tuncap
University of California, Berkeley


My discussion will focus on the continuing struggles of Pacific Islander graduate and undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley to achieve intellectual sovereignty and recognition. These struggles have included and continue to include: 1. The disaggregation of Pacific Islanders from the administrative and intellectual category of Asian American. 2. The appropriation of separate funding for Pacific Islander student recruitment and retention programs. 3. The recognition of Pacific Islanders as sovereign indigenous peoples, and therefore facilitate the building of stronger intellectual and political coalitions and ties with American Indian and other native groups on campus. 4. The establishment of a Pacific Islander Studies Program and the hiring of a Pacific Islander Studies professor.

1 comment:

My name is Melláni said...

Hafa adai! Thanks for letting me know about the conference. I'll let my colleagues know too. I really enjoy reading your blog--you're always up to interesting things.

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