Public Lecture – Audra Simpson

We Are Not Red Indians” (We Might All Be Red Indians): Anticolonial Sovereignty Across the Borders of Time, Place and Sentiment

In 2004, Yasser Arafat noted that “the Palestine case was the biggest problem in the world” and that Israel had “failed to wipe us out.” As a final mark of that success, he added the declarative and comparative and final point of distinction, “we are not red Indians.” In this talk, Columbia professor of anthropology, award-winning author, and Kahnawake Mohawk scholar Audra Simpson, uses this point of comparison to reflect upon the deep specificity and global illegibility of Indigenous struggle and life in the face of death and dispossession in North America. Simpson critically reimagines “success” in Arafat’s statement by arguing that historical assemblages such as sociality, treaty-making, spatial confinement (“reservationization”), and pushbacks for land,¬†life and dignity within occupation counter a “logic of elimination” that authorizes the removal, attacking, and “assimilating” of indigenous peoples for land. The talk analyses how the very techniques of force, of pushback, of sociality and outright resistance are dismissed within a global and comparative frame of resistance and asks how these processes may be re-narrated in a global, comparative frame of not only analysis, but struggles for justice.

Audra Simpson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press, 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 co-editor of Theorizing Native Studies (Duke University Press, 2014). She has articles in Theory & Event, Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures, Law and Contemporary Problems and Wicazo Sa Review. In 2010 she won Columbia University’s School for General Studies “Excellence in Teaching Award.” She is a Kahnawake Mohawk.