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Spaces between Us

Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization

2011
Author:

Scott Lauria Morgensen

Spaces between Us

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Explores the intimate relationship of non-Native and Native sexual politics in the United States

Explaining how relational distinctions of “Native” and “settler” define the status of being “queer,” Spaces between Us argues that modern queer subjects emerged among Natives and non-Natives by engaging the meaningful difference indigeneity makes within a settler society. Scott Lauria Morgensen demonstrates the interdependence of nation, race, gender, and sexuality and offers opportunities for resistance in the U.S.

"This is a fascinating multi-disciplinary book that analyzes the intricate linkages, appropriations, and productions around discourses of Native and non-Native queer movements of indigeneity and national belonging. Scott Lauria Morgensen is a gifted writer and scholar with an elegant eye for detailed and nuanced analysis."
—Martin F. Manalansan, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora

We are all caught up in one another, Scott Lauria Morgensen asserts, we who live in settler societies, and our interrelationships inform all that these societies touch. Native people live in relation to all non-Natives amid the ongoing power relations of settler colonialism, despite never losing inherent claims to sovereignty as indigenous peoples. Explaining how relational distinctions of “Native” and “settler” define the status of being “queer,” Spaces between Us argues that modern queer subjects emerged among Natives and non-Natives by engaging the meaningful difference indigeneity makes within a settler society.

Morgensen’s analysis exposes white settler colonialism as a primary condition for the development of modern queer politics in the United States. Bringing together historical and ethnographic cases, he shows how U.S. queer projects became non-Native and normatively white by comparatively examining the historical activism and critical theory of Native queer and Two-Spirit people.

Presenting a “biopolitics of settler colonialism”—in which the imagined disappearance of indigeneity and sustained subjugation of all racialized peoples ensures a progressive future for white settlers—Spaces between Us newly demonstrates the interdependence of nation, race, gender, and sexuality and offers opportunities for resistance in the United States.

Awards

Ruth Benedict Book Prize Honorable Mention

Spaces between Us

Scott Lauria Morgensen is assistant professor of gender studies and cultural studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He is coeditor of Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature.

Spaces between Us

This is a fascinating multi-disciplinary book that analyzes the intricate linkages, appropriations, and productions around discourses of Native and non-Native queer movements of indigeneity and national belonging. Scott Lauria Morgensen is a gifted writer and scholar with an elegant eye for detailed and nuanced analysis.

Martin F. Manalansan, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora

Spaces between Us is brilliant work that is unceasingly critical, ethical, and illuminating in its research, analysis, and theorization. Morgensen challenges formations of queer settler colonialism in this major intervention undertaken with a critical methodology that has implications for numerous fields.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity

[Morgensen’s] astonishing new book eloquently displays how to pay careful attention to, question and critically denaturalize thoughts and practices that somewhat insidiously, yet profoundly, allow (if not encourage) the ongoing colonization of Indigenous communities and lands. The book’s unique power rests in its unflinching refusal to overlook settler colonialism in the thoughts and practices of both white patriarchal heteronormative subjects and queer, feminist, anti-racist, or critical non-Native settler colonists.

Sarah de Leeuw, Gender, Place and Culture

Spaces between Us is an excellent work of queer auto-critique. It speaks to queer of color, queer diasporic, and queer migration literatures – literatures that challenge the whiteness and homonationalism of queer studies and politics while urging alliance-building efforts — while extending these critiques in innovative and vital ways.

Natalie Oswin, Gender, Place and Culture

Geography’s work toward decolonizing its mission, methods and the lenses through which it views its subject is largely in its infancy. Unfortunately, building multi-racial queer alliances to work toward the decolonization of the settler-state is beyond what our discipline has managed so far. Spaces between Us, though, has taken on this task, endeavoring to explore the rise of the Two-Spirit movement within North American Indigenous communities and its impact on the broader queer movement. It is with admiration for the groundbreaking work of Scott Lauria Morgensen that I critically engage his work.

Jay T. Johnson, Gender, Place and Culture

Scott Lauria Morgensen’s Spaces between Us is a significant contribution to the field of queer or Two-Spirit Native American and indigenous studies and will be of great interest to scholars who focus on gender and sexuality in western American literature.

Western American Literature

Articulating concepts of sovereignty, settler colonialism, and queer indigenous identities ... Morgensen incorporates theoretical voices from Taiaiake Alfred to Michel Foucault while also letting community members speak from their own critical positions.

make/shift

Throughout Spaces Between Is, Morgensen succeeds in building on Native, critical race, feminist, and queer studies while centring indigenous feminist and queer theory... For this reader, one of the central contributions of Spaces Between Us arises out of Morgensen’s exceptional skills at synthesizing and applying relevant scholarship to innovate a theory of the biopolitics of setter and sexuality.

AlterNative

Rich in ethnographic and theoretical insights, Scott Lauria Morgensen’s Spaces Between Us deserves a wide readership, especially those engaging questions of indigeneity, methods of decolonialization, and building alliances among Native, Indigenous, and non-Native peoples... Morgensen provides a critical resource for scholars who use an interdisciplinary approach in anthropology, history, women’s studies, legal studies, and LGBTQ studies.

American Anthropologist

The book is a valuable addition for classes centered on gender and sexuality, which often lack discussion of Native studies and its critical contributions.

Studies in American Indian Literatures

Spaces between Us

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

Part I. Genealogies
1. The Biopolitics of Settler Sexuality and Queer Modernities
2. Conversations on Berdache: Anthropology, Counterculturism, Two-Spirit Organizing

Part II. Movements
3. Authentic Culture and Sexual Rights: Contesting Citizenship in the Settler State
4. Ancient Roots through Settled Land: Imagining Indigeneity and Place among Radical Faeries
5. Global Desires and Transnational Solidarity: Negotiating Indigeneity among the Worlds of Queer Politics
6. “Together We Are Stronger”: Decolonizing Gender and Sexuality in Transnational Native AIDS Organizing

Epilogue

Notes
Bibliography
Index