Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Indigeneity and Diaspora: Global Legal and Linguistic Activism Workshop

March 14, 2019

Indigeneity and Diaspora: Global Legal and Linguistic Activism Workshop

Scholars talking across disciplines to uncover both the commonalities and the singularities of racialization and settler colonialism across radically different contexts in the Americas

By Alejandra Mena and Lauren Deal

On March 14th and 15th, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies hosted a two-day workshop on Indigeneity and Diaspora, Global Legal and Linguistic Activism. Convened by Professors Paja Faudree (Anthropology) and Kevin Escudero (American Studies), the workshop was part of the on-going Sawyer Seminar on Race and Indigeneity in the Americas. The event brought together 12 scholars from a range of disciplines who presented on a diverse array of on-going projects, all of which explore the fruitful intersection between indigeneity and its relationship to immigrant activism. The participants included Keith L. Camacho (University of California, Los Angeles), Nitasha Sharma (Northwestern University), Kevin Escudero (Brown University), Monisha Das Gupta (University of Hawai’i at Manoa), Karen Inouye (Indiana University), Ana Ramos-Zayas (Yale University), Paja Faudree (Brown University), Hilaria Cruz (University of Louisville), Justin Richland (University of California, Irvine), Jonathan Rosa (Stanford University), Shannon Speed (University of California, Los Angeles), and Lourdes Gutiérrez Nájera (Western Washington University). 

The format of the event paired presenters together to serve as discussants on each other’s work. This served to kick off conversation about each paper, their themes, and their relationships to the organizing framework of the workshop. The first day ended with a lively and insightful discussion on the day’s panels. The participants recognized and discussed how all of the papers, while varied in methodology as well as geographical location and historical period, attempted to merge frameworks of race and settler colonialism. As a group, the participants asked how we might effectively theorize the commonalities of racialization and settler colonialism that emerge in these radically different contexts, while being careful to uphold differences and to avoid falling into false equivalences. A common thread across all of the papers of the first day was a general move towards a coalitional politics across racialized and marginalized communities and the challenge of forming these coalitions without foreclosures or erasures. Another thread was the way in which the state and its legal regimes, such as migration, constrain notions of indigeneity, indigenous mobility, and diasporic relationships. Participants discussed the important challenge of thinking indigeneity and diaspora away from spatial metaphors. The conversation closed with a discussion considering how to de-center the settler state in our theories and practices of decolonization. 

Day two of the workshop brought additional foci on language, gender, and white supremacy. After discussing six new papers, the event closed with a thoughtful conversation that concretized the themes of the workshop as a whole. These themes included the relationship between settler colonialism and capitalism, how migration and mobility complicate rigid conceptions of indigeneity, the limits of political expectations within the framework of the settler state, and possibilities for activism, resistance, and solidarities. Participants also discussed the limits, foreclosures, and strengths of disciplinary scholarship, including the affordances of ethnography as a research method and the tensions between scholarly and activist work. 

Over the course of two days, the coming together of these voices produced a space for rich trans-disciplinary thought, reflection, and critique. The conversations that emerged led to a collaborative effort to define ethical ways of engaging with communities as scholars and activists.