New Books in Native American Studies: Spaces between Us
For as much as recent decades have witnessed a patriarchal backlash against the growing visibility of LGBTQ people in North American society, there is another, increasingly popular narrative embodied by Dan Savage’s ubiquitous internet promise: “It gets better.” As barriers to equal treatment under the law are removed and the state incorporates gender and sexual diversity under its protective umbrella — marriage rights extended, prohibitions to military service lifted, etc — queer politics get folded into the progressive march of the West toward equity and tolerance.
But what about for queer people whose land is violently occupied by the very body politic going about all this incorporating? As Scott Lauria Morgensen powerfully articulates in his new book, Spaces Between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), Indigenous Two-Spirit activists work for both decolonization and sexual freedom within their homelands, resisting state incorporation, cultural appropriation, and narratives of their “disappearance.” Brilliantly extending (and intervening) on the work of earlier theorists, Morgensen traces how modern sexual identities are built upon the replacement of indigenous sexuality and the development of settler colonialism in what is now the United States and Canada. “Native and queer studies must regard settler colonialism as a key condition of modern sexuality on stolen land,” Morgensen argues, “and use this analysis to explain the power of settler colonialism among Native and non-Native People.”
This is not simply an indictment. Morgensen shows how conversations between Natives and non-Natives can open up new frameworks for political activism and scholarly research, so long as they remain accountable to the ongoing colonization of Native lands. As mainstream LGBTQ organizations abandon their social movement pasts, Morgensen work is a clarion call for a new wave of decolonial queer organizing.