Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

The Transit of Empire

Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism

2011
Author:

Jodi A. Byrd

The Transit of Empire

Examines how “Indianness” has propagated U.S. conceptions of empire

Jodi A. Byrd explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement serving as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd contends that the colonization of American Indian and indigenous nations is the necessary ground to reimagine a future where the losses of indigenous peoples are visible, but they have agency to transform life on their lands and on their terms.

Theoretically rich, and broad in its intellectual scope, The Transit of Empire puts Indianness at the center of American histories that are not only national, but explicitly imperial and colonial. Jodi Byrd’s brilliant critique of contemporary multicultural liberalism places American Indian and Indigenous studies in close dialogue with postcolonial scholarship, transforming both in the process. It is a work of power, complexity, and commitment, and should not be missed by anyone in these fields.

Philip Deloria, University of Michigan

In 1761 and again in 1769, European scientists raced around the world to observe the transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event in which the planet Venus passes in front of the sun. In The Transit of Empire, Jodi A. Byrd explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement that serves as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd argues that contemporary U.S. empire expands itself through a transferable “Indianness” that facilitates acquisitions of lands, territories, and resources.

Examining an array of literary texts, historical moments, and pending legislations—from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s vote in 2007 to expel Cherokee Freedmen to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill—Byrd demonstrates that inclusion into the multicultural cosmopole does not end colonialism as it is purported to do. Rather, that inclusion is the very site of the colonization that feeds U.S. empire.

Byrd contends that the colonization of American Indian and indigenous nations is the necessary ground from which to reimagine a future where the losses of indigenous peoples are not only visible and, in turn, grieveable, but where indigenous peoples have agency to transform life on their own lands and on their own terms.

The Transit of Empire

Jodi A. Byrd is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and assistant professor of American Indian studies and English at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

The Transit of Empire

Theoretically rich, and broad in its intellectual scope, The Transit of Empire puts Indianness at the center of American histories that are not only national, but explicitly imperial and colonial. Jodi Byrd’s brilliant critique of contemporary multicultural liberalism places American Indian and Indigenous studies in close dialogue with postcolonial scholarship, transforming both in the process. It is a work of power, complexity, and commitment, and should not be missed by anyone in these fields.

Philip Deloria, University of Michigan

The Transit of Empire is a sophisticated and groundbreaking work of indigenous critical theory in which Jodi Byrd reveals and explores the cacophonies of colonialism in literary, historical, and political settings.

Kevin Bruyneel, Babson College

In a world of painfully narrow academic monographs, rare is the work that teams with ideas,
engagements, and interventions across a wide terrain of social life. In The Transit of Empire:
Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism
, Jodi Byrd has produced such a book.

Native American Studies

Jodi Byrd’s book The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critique of Colonialism is a brilliant and trenchant examination of U.S. imperialism and colonialism, the work of a mature and sophisticated critical theorist who seeks to decolonize critical theory in service of the larger project of decolonization. Transit is a wide-ranging text, eclectic in it geographic range, an impressive representative of recent Native American Studies scholarship that engages historical and political issues in an interdisciplinary mode.

Amerasia Journal

Jodi Byrd’s The Transit of Empire traverses material and symbolic realms through which native and indigenous identities have been forged under the yoke of settler colonialism. Throughout, Byrd’s analysis offers a warrior vision of what it might mean to combat the violence of colonialism through the exacting critiques of indigenous theory, a figurative weapon with which to symbolically settle the scores of native history and ground claims for an as yet unwritten American Indian future.

Anthropological Quarterly

A thoroughgoing and often breathtaking critique of the collapsing of indigeneity into racial Indianness. The Transit of Empire provides an invaluable resource in articulating a new paradigm through which to understand legacies of invasion, dispossession, diaspora, and racialized exploitation as they intersect with the (re)production of the United States as a settler state and extension of its power “abroad.”

Studies in American Indian Literature

Byrd offers a critical methodology for theorizing and studying colonialism within the constraints of settler-colonialism and U.S. imperialism. Byrd’s work opens up ways of looking that challenge liberal multicultural politics and anticapitalist movements to bring colonialism to the forefront. She offers possibilities for change.

Western Historical Quarterly

The Transit of Empire

Contents

Preface: Full Fathom Five

Introduction: Indigenous Critical Theory and the Diminishing Returns of Civilization
1. Is and Was: Poststructural Indians without Ancestry
2. “This Island’s Mine”: The Parallax Logics of Caliban’s Cacophony
3. The Masks of Conquest: Wilson Harris’s Jonestown and the Thresholds of Grievability
4. “Been to the Nation, Lord, but I Couldn’t Stay There”: Cherokee Freedmen, Internal Colonialism, and the Racialization of Citizenship
5. Satisfied with Stones: Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization and the Discourses of Resistance
6. Killing States: Removals, Other Americans, and the “Pale Promise of Democracy”
Conclusion: Zombie Imperialism

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index