tequila sovereign

10 Years of Casting Out: Comments

For the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, States of Emergence
(November 8-10, 2018), Saturday, 4:00-5:45

In my forthcoming book, The Red Scare: The Empire’s Indigenous Terrorist, I address the co-production of Indigeneity and terrorism in the United States and Canada. I want to think through how Indigenous people are subjected to racist and misogynist representations as threat and terror to the empire’s sense of social order and national security. I argue that these representations are figured prominently by the Kinless and Murderable Indian.

The Kinless Indian, including those who claim to be Indigenous and are not, severs the racialized link between the cultural authenticity and legal legitimacy of Indigeneity. Distorting the historical conditions of genocide and dispossession that make such claims possible, the Kinless Indian legitimates the undermining of Indigenous governance and territorial rights and recasts Indigeneity as a threat to the social order undermining state democracy.

The murderable Indian, including not only the criminal, violent, and lazy Indian but the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada, relies on an affectivity of terror that demands proportionately repressive, carcerally-centric state interventions and protections to reestablish and maintain public safety and national security.

Both the Kinless and Murderable Indian rearticulates its own genocide and dispossession in the name of ‘the greater good.’ This good is attached to particular notions of a civil, stable, and secure society measured by the vibrancy of white heteronormative property (entitlement, protections, status). This good demands severe forms of surveillance and counterterrorist measures to restore the democracy Indians sabotage while concealing the deeply imperialist and neoliberal designs such measures advance over Indigenous lands, resources, and bodies.

This book project is deeply informed by and in conversation with scholars, activists, and artists whose work addresses the politics of Islamaphobia and anti-Blackness in the mobilization of terrorism to rationalize all manner of invasive surveillance, militarized policing, and a whole swath of criminal punishments. I actually began thinking about this project in January 2014 when I participated in a delegation to Palestine. What struck me while there were the profound similarities not only in the racist caractitures of Indigenous, Black, and Palestinian people in the U.S., Canada, and Israel as terrorists, but the rather uninventive and repetitive script of who terrorists were in service of imperial ideologies and practices — the non-white, uncivilized, unchristian, violent, homophobic, sexist radical extremists out to destroy the societies they had so generously and graciously been taken into but who remain profoundly jealous and hateful of.

For example, the Indians of Standing Rock refused to acknowledge how much the U.S. had already given them (your lands weren’t stolen, you were conquered, get over it); the Blacks of Ferguson refused to acknowledge how much the U.S. had already handed out to them (you aren’t victims of the system, you are drug-fueled criminals); the Palestinians allowed to live (look at how we take care of you even though you try to kill us).

In each example, the state’s democratic benevolence is cast against the inherent barbarity and savagery of the terrorist other, shrouding the state’s ongoinggenocide, criminalization, and punishment of the terrorist other as a desperate attempt to protect the democracy and civilization it represents. In each case, the white heteropatriarchy of lawful and righted property feeds a deeply racist resentment and agenda to suppress that which challenges its claims and entitlements.

For instance. According to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, which tracks anti‑protest bills in the United States, 63 states have introduced bills to restrict public protest since the 2016 presidential election and in response to Indigenous anti-pipeline and Black Lives Matter efforts. The bills have included: protections for drivers who “unintentionally” hit protesters blocking traffic (North Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Rhode Island); fines and prison time for “tampering” with oil equipment (Colorado);fines and prison time for trespassing in areas containing “critical infrastructure facility” (Oklahoma); fines and prison time for obstructing traffic (Mississippi); and a mandatory sentence of 60 days for actions that cause “economic disruption” (Washington).

The bills have also included one that would require public universities and colleges to expel students convicted of “rioting” (Oregon) and ban groups of 20 or more from public lands and schools (South Dakota). Many of these bills were lobbied and financed by the American Legislative Exchange Council(alec)and Energy Transfer Partners (etpbehind the Dakota Access Pipeline). alecand etphave been behind numerous bills with conservative ends, including Stand Your Ground legislation aimed at protecting gun rights and the criminalization of anti-pipeline protests. etphas also pursued lawsuits against Greenpeace and other environmental groups for damages over $900 million worth. The suits claim that anti-pipeline activities are part of a “criminal enterprise” whose organization and actions violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or ricoof 1970.

At the same time, over 80 congressional representations sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting that the DoJclassify anti-pipeline efforts as “domestic terrorism.” This was consistent with a report released by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, on “suspected environmental rights extremists,” which labeled anti-pipeline actions as “criminal and violent acts” against the nation’s economic infrastructure and national security.[i]Black Lives Matter was similarly labeled “identity extremists” out to disrupt social order and kill police.[ii]The language of the congressional letter is almost identical to that of reports from private security contractors to oil and gas industry officials. TigerSwan, “an international security and global stability firm”hired by etpand working in North Dakota without the required state license during nodapl, repeatedly labeled anti‑pipeline activists as terrorists, likened their activities to those of radical “insurgents” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and called for fuller authority to operate domestically.[iii]

In understanding these processes of imperial formation, Sherene Razack’s Casting Outis key.[iv]Razack argues that the dangerous Muslim man, the imperiled Muslim woman, and the civilized European animate a story about,

the family of white nations, a civilization, obliged to use force and terror to defend itself… The story is not just a story, of course, but is the narrative scaffold for the making of an empire dominated by the United States and the white nations who are its allies. Supplying the governing logic of several laws and legal processes… the story underwrites the expulsion of Muslims from political community, a casting out that takes the form of stigmatization, surveillance, incarceration, abandonment, torture, and bombs. (5)

The state, in a permanent siege from terrorists, relies on racist thinking and logics to address the conditions of imminent attack. So horrendous are these conditions, spread across multiple threats, that the state is left with no choice but to cast terrorists out of its protections and into a geopolitical space in which they are without humanity and so human rights.

The dangerous Muslim man, the imperiled Muslim woman, and the civilized European holds together the otherwise frantic narrative of siege to reveal the constitutive role of gender in the empire’s formation. Feminism, mobilized by the state and its benefactors to justify counterterrorist measures and the casting out of terrorists from the international community of legal representation and protection, is centrally implicated in both the rationale and the practices of state “counterterrorism.”

The ideologies and discourses of civilization that (in)form these articulatory practices of imperial formation work across the communities of racialized others in the U.S., Canada, and Israel to propel and justify the state’s surveillance, incarceration, abandonment, torture, and bombing of Muslim people. The ideologies and discourses of civilization are deeply familiar to Indigenous and Black people in the U.S. and Canada who have long been figured as barbarians, savages, and uncivil in ways that serve projects of genocide, dispossession, enslavement, and sexual violence. We have many stories to tell about these familiarities and solidarities across our communities to challenge their normalization of racist ideologies and military/security practices.

But I want to conclude my brief comments with a question about the important difference between the Indigenous, Black, and Arab/Muslim in the empire’s discourses of terrorism. Razack’s Casting Outtheorizes an imperial state defined by white kinship. Therein, the racialized other is always alreadycast out of political community of legal protections.

But what of the whiteness that appropriates and celebrates Indigeneity as its ancestral territorial right? That defines its whiteness through a memorialized integration of a nativity that has not only vacated the Indigenous but appropriated the Indigenous into its identity and kinship? That at once holds itself up as the original inhabitant, as the descendent of those it conquered, and does so as an affirmation of its civilization and democracy? What of the Indigeneity that is not cast out, even when or as it terrorizes and threatens, but that is reabsorbed in order to legitimate? How are Indigenous, Black, and Muslim communities activating opposition to the empire in respect of the flexibility of whiteness in animating our very different types of inclusions and exclusions as terrorists?

[i]Will Parish, “An Activist Stands Accused of Firing a Gun at Standing Rock. It Belonged to her Lover, An FBI Informant,” The Intercept(December 11, 2017). https://theintercept.com/2017/12/11/standing-rock-dakota-access-pipeline-fbi-informant-red-fawn-fallis

[ii]FBI Intelligence Assessment, “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers,” Counterterrorism Division (August 3, 2017). https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4067711-BIE-Redacted.html

[iii]Alleen Brown, Will Parish, and Alice Speri, “Leaked Documents Reveal Security Firms Counterterrorism Tactics at Standing Rock to “Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies,” The Intercept (May 27, 2017). https://theintercept.com/2017/05/27/leaked-documents-reveal-security-firms-counterterrorism-tactics-at-standing-rock-to-defeat-pipeline-insurgencies

[iv]Sherene Razack, Casting Out: The Eviction Of Muslims From Western Law And Politics(University of Toronto Press, 2008).

Decolonizing the Mind

Decolonizing the Mind (an excerpt)

RETHINKING MARXISM, Vol. 30, No. 2 (2018), 208–231, https://doi.org/10.1080/08935696.2018.1502308


Everything is art. Everything is politics.

Ai Weiwei

There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.

Octavia E. Butler

Being asked to write about one’s artwork is unsettling. I felt unsettled. In part because it feels pretentious. In part because the writing feels like it will assign a static meaning and equivalence between image and imagined, rendering something that was experientially and intentionally meant to be visceral, problematic, and possible into something stagnant. Something that was sensual into the detached. But then I thought about Ai Weiwei and Octavia Butler and realized that there was no difference between my writing and my artwork and my politics and so what was the fuss all about?

This essay makes use of several genres of writing — analysis, storytelling, memoire — to provoke, not explain, meaningful, contextualized engagement with the images I include. Those images are organized into five collections; 1) The Land; 2) Sky Woman; 3) Violences; 4) The Sacred (Pleasures); 5) Indigenous Futurism (see the Gallery). I think, throughout the images, I would define my artwork in context of my struggle to “decolonize my mind,” decolonize my emotions, a struggle that includes but is not contained in artwork as a language, a form of communication, a mode of cultural practice and resurgence.[i]A struggle to reclaim a future that is not about the future at all but a present in which Indigenous territories, stories, bodies, and sensualities are unoccupied and uncivilized: I want to live there; that is where I live.


Collection 1: The Land

What do I mean by “the land”? I do not mean the land in the terms of capitalism’s inheritable patrilineal estate, the terms of Marx’s property as an alienation from community, or the terms of the left’s public commons. These lands are not Indigenous land. They belong to European and North American economics, histories, and politics, bound conceptually to patriarchal class hierarchies and their gendered and racial oppressions as well as the resistance movements that have mobilized against the states they uphold.[ii]

As represented in the work of Leanne Betasamosake Simpsonand Mishuana Goeman, Indigenous land is not property or a public commons, it is a mode of relationality and a related set of ethics and protocols for lived social responsibilities and governance defined within discrete Indigenous epistemologies.[iii]As Vine Deloria, Jr. argued, the epistemological difference that Indigenous land makes in Indigenous governance and society is its designation of responsibilities, not rights.[iv]These responsibilities include ceremonies of reciprocity to specific places, hunting and fishing practices, water access and use, and the terms of human and nonhuman relations.[v]

Because of U.S. imperialism and colonialism — historically and presently — Indigenous relationships and responsibilities to the land are difficult at best. In maintaining life practices that are land-based, Indigenous people come “face-to-face with settler colonial authority, surveillance and violence because, in practice, [land] places Indigenous bodies between settlers and their money… Being a practitioner of land as pedagogy and learning in my community [is] a process of learning how to be on the land anyway.”[vi]While Indigenous people may assert rights against the settler and their money, in the terms that authority understands and conditions (blockades of pipelines, divestment campaigns, et cetera), rights are a tactic and not the strategy of lived responsibility to the land.

I am Lenape, Turtle Clan. The Lenape were relocated to northeastern Oklahoma, at the end of seven forced relocations by treaty with the United States between 1778 and 1866 and an agreement with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1867. While currently the Lenape (Delaware Tribe of Indians) possess the legal status and rights of a federally recognized tribe, they have experienced two “termination” periods at the political behest of the Cherokee.[vii]They have no trust lands or other recognized, organized territory. Their original territories, in what is now the northeastern region of the United States, is called Lenapehoking.

I write from Oakland of Alameda County, Chochenyo Ohlone territory.[viii]The Chochenyo Ohlone are indigenous to the east bay of San Francisco including Alameda County. Neither the Chochenyo Ohlone nor any of the other Ohlone peoples of the bay area are federally recognized and so are not recognized to possess any relative governance or authority over any part of their original territories. As a result of the complicated histories informing this situation, the Ohlone work to revitalize their language without any infrastructural support and struggle to protect their cultural sites against development and exploitation without any requirement on the part of the United States or its agencies to consult or respect.[ix]

I claim and am claimed by Lenapehoking. But neither Lenapehoking, Oklahoma, or Oakland are “my land.” These lands define my relationships and responsibilities. They define my scholarship, activism, fiction, and artwork. They define me. (Figure 1: Lenapehoking: A Love Story; Figure 2: Lenapehoking: An Imprint.)


Lenapehoking 01
Figure 1: Lenapehoking, A Love Story


This and other artwork available at http://society6.com/joannebarker


[i]Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Decolonising The Mind: The Politics Of Language In African Literature(East African Publishers, 1994): “Language as communication and as culture are then products of each other. Communication creates culture: culture is a means of communication. Language carries culture, and culture carries … the entire body of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in the world” (16).

[ii]See Glen S. Coulthard,Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting The Colonial Politics Of Recognition(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014); Robert Nichols, “Theft Is Property! The Recursive Logic of Dispossession,” Political Theory(2017): 1-20; Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, “Land as Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg Intelligence and Rebellious Transformation,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 3, no. 3 (2014): 1-25; Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories Of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence And A New Emergence (Arbeiter Ring Publishers, 2011).

[iii]Simpson, “Land as pedagogy” and Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back; Mishuana Goeman, Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations(University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

[iv]Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969).

[v]Vine Deloria, Jr., God Is Red: A Native View Of Religion(Fulcrum Publishing, 1973).

[vi]Simpson, “Land as pedagogy,” 7, 19.

[vii]See Joanne Barker, Native Acts: Law, Recognition, and Cultural Authenticity(Duke University Press, 2011).

[viii]See the Segorea Te’ Land Trust, at http://sogoreate-landtrust.com. I serve on the board of the Land Trust, “an urban Indigenous women led land trust in California’s east bay.”

[ix]See Michelle Steinberg, director, Beyond Recognition(2014).