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The Erotics of Sovereignty

Queer Native Writing in the Era of Self-Determination

2012
Author:

Mark Rifkin

The Erotics of Sovereignty

How queer Native writers use the erotics of lived experience to challenge both federal and tribal notions of “Indianness”

In 1970 the Nixon administration inaugurated a new era in federal Indian policy, promoting “the Indian’s sense of autonomy without threatening his sense of community.” Mark Rifkin offers a telling perspective on what such a policy of self-determination has meant and looks at how contemporary queer Native writers use representations of sensation to challenge official U.S. accounts of Native identity.

Mark Rifkin’s ability to productively articulate the connections between straightness and empire alone marks him as one of the most significant scholars in American Indian Studies. In this book, Rifkin thoughtfully prods us to think about how queer Native writers are literally ‘reimagining’ Indianness outside of those oppressive norms in a way that nuances our understanding of how Native peoples practice sovereignty in everyday life, despite the continued influence of imperialism inside tribal politics.

Malea Powell, Michigan State University

In 1970 the Nixon administration inaugurated a new era in federal Indian policy. No more would the U.S. government seek to deny and displace Native peoples or dismantle Native governments; from now on federal policy would promote “the Indian’s sense of autonomy without threatening his sense of community.”

In The Erotics of Sovereignty, Mark Rifkin offers a telling perspective on what such a policy of self-determination has meant and looks at how contemporary queer Native writers use representations of sensation to challenge official U.S. accounts of Native identity. Rifkin focuses on four Native writers—Qwo-Li Driskill (Cherokee), Deborah Miranda (Esselen), Greg Sarris (Graton Rachería), and Chrystos (Menominee)—approaching their fiction and poetry as forms of political theory.

Rifkin shows how the work of these queer or two-spirit Native writers affirms the significance of the erotic as an exercise of individual and community sovereignty. In this way, we come to see how their work contests the homophobic, sexist, and exclusivist policies and attitudes of tribal communities as well as those of the nation-state.

The Erotics of Sovereignty

Mark Rifkin is associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is author of Manifesting America: The Imperial Construction of U.S. National Space and When Did Indians Become Straight?: Kinship, the History of Sexuality, and Native Sovereignty (winner of the John Hope Franklin Prize for best book in American Studies in 2011), and co-editor of Sexuality, Nationality, Indigeneity: Rethinking the State at the Intersection of Native American and Queer Studies.

The Erotics of Sovereignty

Mark Rifkin’s ability to productively articulate the connections between straightness and empire alone marks him as one of the most significant scholars in American Indian Studies. In this book, Rifkin thoughtfully prods us to think about how queer Native writers are literally ‘reimagining’ Indianness outside of those oppressive norms in a way that nuances our understanding of how Native peoples practice sovereignty in everyday life, despite the continued influence of imperialism inside tribal politics.

Malea Powell, Michigan State University

This book is a crucial addition to contemporary debates not only on the topic at hand, but also on the very (limits of the) borders of the disciplines of law, politics, and literary studies.

Theory & Event

Provides thought-provoking and nuanced readings of each author.

CHOICE

The Erotics of Sovereignty

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

1. The Somatics of Haunting: Embodied Peoplehood in Qwo-Li Driskill’s Walking with Ghosts
2. Landscapes of Desire: Melancholy, Memory, and Fantasy in Deborah Miranda’s The Zen of La Llorona
3. Genealogies of Indianness: The Errancies of Peoplehood in Greg Sarris’s Watermelon Nights
4. Laboring in the City: Stereotype and Survival in Chrystos’s Poetry

Notes
Bibliography
Index

The Erotics of Sovereignty

UMP blog - Reauthorizing Indianness (or Acts of Violence against Native Self-Determination)

6.19.2012 - During the past few months, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives both have passed bills reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The law originally was adopted in 1994 and was last reauthorized in 2005, and in its various iterations, it has, among other things, created categories for interstate domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in federal law as well as providing funding (for which periodic reauthorization is needed) for the prevention and prosecution of violent crimes against women. While also differing on issues related to immigrants and women in same-sex relationships, the House and Senate versions of the current VAWA take dissimilar approaches to the question of how to protect Native women against assault and domestic violence. Specifically, the Senate version allows for tribes to have limited criminal jurisdiction in cases involving dating and domestic violence over the non-Indian “romantic” and “intimate partners” of women living in Indian country as well as enabling tribal governments to issue and enforce protection orders. These provisions are absent in the House bill, which instead requires that Native women seek protection from federal courts.

Read the full article.