- Grounded Normativity / Place-Based Solidarity
We would like to begin our response to David Roediger’s provocative meditation on the historical and contemporary antinomies of solidarity (in both theory and practice) with a statement of gratitude to and political acknowledgment of the hosts of the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Studies Association (ASA) held in Toronto last year: the nation of the Mississauga Nishnaabeg.
Toronto is an area rich in the theory and practice of Indigenous political alliance, holding the histories and presence of not only the Mississauga Nishnaabeg but also the Wendat and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. These nations negotiated and continue to practice diplomatic relationships with each other to share land while respecting each other’s governance, jurisdiction, and sovereignty. Each nation also exists in deep reciprocal relationships with the Great Lakes, in particular Lake Ontario, and the waterways that flow into it. These nations foster deep relations to St. Lawrence River leading to the Atlantic Ocean, the diverse plant and animal nations within their territories, the thunderers and rains, and all the physical and spiritual forces that connect them to this place, their place of creation, in an intimate and meaningful way.
To many of the Indigenous academics in attendance at the ASA, ourselves included, it probably came as little surprise to learn that the Mississauga Nishnaabeg, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee were not the hosts noted in the event’s call for papers and proposals, on the conference website, or in much of the ASA’s promotional materials; nor were the bulk of us likely surprised that neither their lands nor sovereignties figured much in the conference proceedings beyond symbolic opening gestures. This form of erasure—that is, the erasure of Indigenous land and jurisdiction—is one of the “miseries” that constitute Indigenous peoples’ experience of our settler colonial present, both inside and outside the academy. The erasure of Mississauga Nishnaabeg, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee sovereignty from the ASA conference is not only a reinforcement of our settler-colonial present; it is a negation of the contributions of their presence in this place, a presence that has been violently [End Page 249] attacked in the name of dispossession for four centuries. It is a negation of their intellectual and political practices of governance-in-solidarity that we ignore at our peril. This acknowledgment then, necessitates a different beginning, one in which we actively take on the contestation of settler colonization in all its violent dimensions as a point of departure, so that when we present our work on solidarity against the “misery of …,” we are not standing on the backs of Indigenous peoples but instead engaged as related comrades joined in critical co-resistance against the convergence of forces that divide and conquer us and the Earth on which we depend. It seems appropriate, then, to (re)center these issues—Indigenous land and jurisdiction—in our response to Roediger’s keynote address, and in doing so share some of our reflections on why these issues occupy such an ambivalent if not contentious place in the politics of solidarity in settler colonial contexts.
Being the masterful historian that he is, Roediger’s keynote (as well as its written incarnation published here) presents his audience with an “uneasy” (and uneven) history of subaltern solidarity across multiple axes of power and community. In doing so he not only discloses a rich history of enacting transformative alliances within and across nation, race, and class (from Ferguson to Palestine) but also uses this history to stress the importance of us confronting the difficulties and tensions that marked these past struggles in order to illuminate the ways in which they continue to shape our present. For our discussion here, one of the most telling historical examples drawn on by Roediger is his closing discussion of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, which represents an early alliance temporarily forged across the formidable racial–economic divide of white indentured and Black slave labor while perpetuating the structure of colonial dispossession. We would like to think that Roediger purposefully ended his intervention with a nod to the significance of Indigenous dispossession and erasure because they, alongside antiblackness and heteropatriarchy, inform the...