restricted access Deconstructing Queer Settler Colonialism
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Deconstructing Queer Settler Colonialism
Spaces between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization. Scott Lauria Morgensen. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 336 pp.

The relationship between queer indigenous peoples and nonindigenous queers has a complicated history. Scholarship on queer indigenous peoples also has a legacy tied to misrepresentation and objectification. Until now, no scholar has effectively presented an actionable critique incorporating both popular gay cultural appropriation of indigenous queer heritages and a theoretical apparatus with which to deconstruct knowledge produced about queer indigenous peoples. In Scott Lauria Morgensen's Spaces between Us, "queer settler colonialism" is the analytic cornerstone of a new approach for denaturalizing the gender and sexuality legacies of colonialism. Central to this project for Morgensen is identifying as a non-Native scholar and a queer critic of non-Native queers who invoke Native heritage for white settler gay liberation. This positioning is, in and of itself, an ethical act of decolonization explicitly tied to a disjuncturing of queer settler claims to indigenous pasts. Within this positioning lies the inspiration for an innovative approach to queer scholarship and queer intellectual methodology, with implications beyond gender and sexuality studies.

The central tenets of Spaces between Us are outlined in part 1, "Genealogies," which is a two-chapter archaeology of settler-derived homonormative discourses and a framing of Native resistance to the homosocial uses of primitivism. White sexual minorities, according to Morgensen, are little different than other white settler subjects who have incorporated primitivity into a national identity. This national identity is constructed ideologically and spatially within acts of colonial appropriation of both Native culture and land. For example, in Morgensen's analysis, Harry Hay's appropriation of the "berdache" tradition for homophile [End Page 199] activism and gay cultural production would be considered an act of colonization. This single rereading of homophile primitivism is a bold stance in queer studies. However, once the reader fully grasps Morgensen's theoretical use of settler logics against their own effects, an entirely new and innovative understanding of sex and gender colonialism opens. The application of these ideas to knowledge produced about Native queer history, the history of queer "back to the land" counterculture, and Two-Spirit organizing further extend the reach of the analysis to completely reshape current understandings of critical moments in both queer indigenous and queer settler culture.

In part 2, "Movements," Morgensen applies the theoretical apparatus to Native gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit (GLBTQ2) social movements and GLBTQ homophile primitivist movements. Part 2 is not a one-dimensional critique of white queer homophiles, nor is it a romanticized celebration of indigenous queers. Rather, what emerges is a conversation between indigenous queer decolonization and the uses of Native culture and lands by white queer settlers. Land occupied by white settlers and stolen from Natives (read queer Natives) is analyzed through parallel spatial claims embedded in culturally specific acts of indigeneity. The chapters in this section draw on ethnographic observations of GLBTQ2 people and homophile settlers "in power-laden conversation." The best application of Morgensen's analysis comes in chapter 4 where Morgensen attempts to sort through the complex relationship between whiteness, queers of color, and "the settler colonial relationship to Native peoples and land" (146). We come to understand the possibility that queers of color and GLBTQ2 people use Radical Faerie culture to mark as well as displace whiteness. Thus these forms of difference—race and indigeneity—are reliant on each other in that GLBTQ2 people readily adapt Radical Faerie culture into their work for decolonization. In chapter 5, Morgensen translates the complexity of this relationship into transnational indigenous contexts where Two-Spirit critiques of settler queer primitivism challenge settler colonialism as well as "globalist desires."

Moving from a sense of conversation between settler and Native, we arrive at chapter 6, "Together We Are Stronger," which brings the conversation of decolonization to explicitly indigenous contexts. The focus of this chapter is the way in which Two-Spirit AIDS organizing represents a quintessential act of decolonization where GLBTQ2 Natives defend sovereignty by opposing the forces of homonationalism and the naturalization of settler colonialism. In Native AIDS organizing we find the very root of...