This article offers a brief history of “sovereignty,” unmooring it from Western governance and the right to kill, in order to trace the life of the term within the field of Native (Indigenous) politics and Studies. Within this field, the practice of “critique” is central, examining conditions of dispossession and exploitation within other disciplines that refuse or devalue knowledge about Indigenous peoples. Historically, “critique” has been vital to Native and Indigenous Studies, which emerged from the liberatory and resistant politics of the late sixties and seventies across North America, as well as from decolonization movements and the specificities (and sovereignties) of Indian country. A developing field at that moment, Native and Indigenous Studies saw that the needs of Indigenous communities were tied directly to forms of resistance and redress but as well to the terrains of knowledge within contemporary academic institutions. As such, disciplinary formation and the critique, if not dismantling of dispossessing disciplines, became key sites for liberation, along with lands and waters.
The Sovereignty of Critique
Audra Simpson is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She researches and writes about Indigenous and settler society, politics, and history. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States (2014), winner of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies Prize, the Laura Romero Prize from the American Studies Association as well as the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (2015). She is coeditor of Theorizing Native Studies (2014). She has articles in Postcolonial Studies, Theory and Event, Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures, Law and Contemporary Problems, and Wicazo Sa Review. In 2018, she was the Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto and in 2019 the Nicholson Distinguished Scholar in The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She delivered the General Anthropology Division’s Distinguished Lecture at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in 2019. In 2010 she won Columbia University’s School for General Studies “Excellence in Teaching Award.” She is a Kahnawà:ke Mohawk.
Audra Simpson; The Sovereignty of Critique. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2020; 119 (4): 685–699. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-8663591
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