Johns Hopkins University Press

This essay performs an anticolonial and poetic methodology of combining Black and Native feminists' deconstruction of metaphor and metaphysics in order to argue for the centrality of colonial metaphor to colonial metaphysics. I combine their analyses of the separate gendered metaphors of Blackness and Indianness and the centrality of these metaphors to the development of a global metaphysics as well as the transference of the terms of metaphysics to whiteness. I then apply this method of combined terms and readings to white colonial writing that compares Black and Native America, which transforms both communities not only into individually potent, gendered metaphors but into an essential poetic pairing, a poetic couplet. Drawing on the work of Black and Native feminists, I further argue that when we take this paired model to evaluate the political concerns of Black and Native America, we come to a more complete and global understanding and refutation of whiteness. The creation, connection, and comparison of the gendered metaphors and archetypical figures of the "African Slave" and "Indian Savage" are important to each other and to the creation of a Western conception of the globe. Colonialism uses gender to compound metaphor's ability to create, by combining metaphors of gender with metaphors of race and colonialism to develop new symbolic amalgamations. This gestalt of metaphors comes together in order to create a fictive European metaphysics used to ameliorate white fears of the diversity of life on planet Earth and to satisfy white desires to control it. In this coupled metaphoric form, Blackness and Indianness are not connected by analogy but by the open-ended cut, the caesura, of poetry and the violence of slavery and conquest. I offer this anticolonial and poetic pairing as a model for political imagining between Black and Native theory.

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In James Madison's now well-known 1826 letter to Thomas McKenney, he demonstrates the transformation of Black and Native America into the potent metaphors of "bosom" and "border" through "the advantage of literary dress."1 He says that "next to the case of the black race within our bosom, that of the red on our borders is the problem most baffling to the policy of our country."2 Considering the frequent citation of Madison's formulation, it would be apropos to read it as a paradigmatic yet fleeting phrasing of white America's relationship to both African Americans and Native Americans. Samuel Chapman Armstrong—founder of the Hampton Institute boarding school for Black and Native children in Virginia in the late nineteenth century—joins Madison in pairing Black and Native America. For Chapman, the pairing of these two communities illustrates their individual and shared metaphysical importance: "Life would not be worth living if there were no Negro and Indian problems."3 The metaphorical transformation of Black and Native America into "problems" involves a colonial legacy that uses metaphor to misname Black and Native people and transform them into abstract and material objects to be acquired. Not only this, the joint dilemma of "Negro and Indian problems" is a metaphysical one. The figures of the Native American and the Black American present problems pertaining to the meaning and "worth" of life itself. I call Madison and Chapman's formulations "poetic" because although Blackness and Indianness are mediated by a white line and made to inhabit different spheres of colonial meaning, they share a rhyme and rhythm and are used to offer meta commentary on the nature of existence. Although such pairings of Blackness and Indianness4 are numerous and paradigmatic in nineteenth-century white colonial writing, they are often brief and elude full structural elaboration. For this very reason, these poetic pairings, linked through the power of negative metaphors, offer insight into Black and Native relations and colonial rule.

Taking a paradigmatic approach to reading Black and Native colonial pairings and anticolonial feminist theory, this essay is structured in two parts and makes a series of layered arguments. The first half reads the Black and Native feminist deconstruction of colonial metaphors to elaborate the essential role metaphors play in Western metaphysics. In so doing, I combine the theoretical tools of Black and Native feminist theory as a method of reading, specifically, a poetic reading of Black and Native colonial comparison. By "poetic reading," I mean the connection of Black and Native feminist writing in order to highlight their shared deconstruction of metaphor and metaphysics, and the poetic character of white colonial pairings of Blackness and Indianness. Using this colonial twinning for an anticolonial strategy can become a policy of political unity that results in an active coproduction of Black and Native American theory, art, politics, and resistance against a common opponent—a pernicious and persistent practice of white supremacy, embodied most strongly, though not exclusively, by white Euroamericans. This first section of the essay offers a method of political joining, a form of poetic combination, by linking the theoretical terms of Black and Native feminisms and their deconstruction of colonial metaphor and metaphysics. In deconstructing language as a colonial technology, Black and Native feminist writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna), Hortense Spillers, Rayna Green (Cherokee), Saidiya Hartman, and others name metaphor as an [End Page 63] essential grammar, if not the essential grammar, of colonial literature. The expression of this poetic relationship can be most vividly seen in the gendered metaphors applied to Black and Native American life and in the deconstruction of these metaphors by Black and Native feminists.

The second half of this essay uses the anticolonial and poetic pairing of Black and Native feminist theory to read often-cited pairings of Black and Native America by nineteenth-century white writers and artists to identify how Blackness and Indianness are transformed into linked metaphors. I argue that pairings of Black and Native America in white colonial writing, taken paradigmatically, not only demonstrate the transformation of both communities into individual metaphors but also into a powerful metaphoric and poetic pairing—a poetic couplet. As a colonial pairing, when we take the most predominant metaphors of Blackness and Indianness together, they often reflect two halves of the same question. Take for example the predominant, but not determining, metaphors of Blackness and Indianness, ocean and land respectively. Even as Europeans imagine these elements as frictional and oppositional forces, they also reflect the composite parts of the Earth. When we view Blackness and Indianness as a metaphorical amalgam, they represent different iterations that come together to reflect the European metaphysical desires to colonize the Earth and life itself.

Metaphor is foundational to the concept of metaphysics because it encapsulates the process of abstraction central to language that metaphysics attempts to capture.5 We can define metaphor as the transference of seemingly related nouns, where one thing, word, or sign is given the name of another.6 Metaphysics is a European mythology and philosophy concerned with "being as such," "first causes of things," and "things that do not change."7 Jacques Derrida says that for the West, analogy is the most powerful metaphor because it is the most logical form of metaphor: "Analogy is metaphor par excellence."8 He also adds that the foundational tropes of Western philosophy cannot belong to the realm of poetics because the laws of supplementation assume a necessary and unbroken chain of metaphors. This refusal of the imminent nature of poetry by Western philosophy that Derrida points out is itself a reflection of the West's overdependence on reason and logic's narrative chain of causation. In contrast, as Harriet Mullen points out, poetry's broken open-endedness more closely reflects natural speech, thought, and innovation, and thus is itself what the West and Western poetry resist with their insistence on form, structure, and logic.9

In works such as Madison's and Chapman's, the figures of the "African Slave" and "Indian Savage" occur firstly as distinct metaphors of theoretical elaboration and secondly [End Page 64] as a couplet, producing what Tiya Miles terms "the politics of their comparison."10 In their coupled form, they share a punctuated rhythm of complimentary and harmonic sounds in the overemphasis on death in their shared histories. I discern in this pattern of pairing and comparison an essential relation that is not analogy but closer to the fractured and open-ended relation evident in poetry, which can make connections between principles that are imagined as alike in their difference.11

The metaphoric connection between Blackness and Indianness is not made possible by the analogical nature of metaphor but in fact by its poetic nature. They are connected by a poetics that is itself the source of metaphoric and analogical structure. Poetry, by its broken, open, and illogical imminence, makes possible the relation between non-analogical objects that have no relation to each other at all, other than the fact that they exist in the world. The poetic character of metaphor, more than the analogical, is the source of Black and Native interaction. The respective negative metaphors of Blackness and Indianness and their pairing are used to ask fundamental metaphysical questions about the nature of existence, allowing white Euroamericans to cope with the freighting variety of life on planet Earth, the relative smallness of Europe as a place and population in comparison to the rest of the world, and the seeming vastness and emptiness of the cosmos. Put another way, colonial metaphysics reflects white desires of mastery that are in fact a fear of death, and particularly death by Black and Native anticolonial retaliation.

It is the break, the gap, the cut, the caesura, the open-endedness of violence of New World invasion and African chattel slavery that enables the metaphoric and poetic pairing of Black and Native America. This relationship exceeds the logic central to analogy because they are both structured by a paradigmatic violence that cuts an opening into the meta structure of metaphor, analogy, and logic, revealing poetry as their substructure—as the foundation of language itself. Even as metaphor trades in logic when it performs as analogy, the poetic character of metaphor identifies logic as violence, as a coerced relationship and connection between different and unrelated objects. In this way, if Blackness and Indianness can be said to be analogical at all, it is primarily due to their non-analogical experience of colonial catastrophe.12 As Sylvia Wynter and Haunani-Kay Trask (Hawaiian) indicate, New World conquest and African chattel slavery are unparalleled events and institutions that are co-constitutive and coterminous even as they manifest differently.13

As a method of anticolonial reading, the broken and imminent nature of poetry—and consequently, the Black and Native poetic pairing—provides an important resource through which to understand this racial-colonial construction and bring Black and Native theory closer together. As a poetic and ethical anticolonial pairing—a "poethical" pairing—identifies that both communities are structured by the cut of settlement and slavery, and by a refusal of or resentment against colonial violence.14 When I call Blackness and Indianness a "poetic pairing," I mean an open-ended and innovative relation established but not determined by colonial violence that enables anticolonial possibilities. A poetic reading acknowledges that their differences and similarities, however constituted, are produced and made manifest not by any inherent or true dissonance or concordance, but by the varying and vying colonial formulas within the West's fictive [End Page 65] universalism. Theories that overemphasize Black and Native difference or similarity miss the point that an explicit formula of colonial violence was the cultivation of a policy of "divide and conquer" that depended on articulating an unbridgeable difference between Blackness and Indianness, even as both are drawn under the umbrella of a false European universalism. Such a poetic reading assumes that both the apt differences and similarities between Blackness and Indianness are colonially contrived. It also acknowledges that the only way to access any true knowledge within and between Black and Native America would necessitate the removal of the European as a mediating figure.

Emphasizing the poetic relationship between Blackness and Indianness allows us to move beyond a mere analogy between them as a pretext for theorizing them together. Centering the poetic pairing between these communities allows us to see how colonialism creates meaning by comparing and combining these symbols. What this demonstrates is that there is no real logic to the way colonials ordered, hierarchized, and categorized Black and Native people. Rather, colonialism is based on the erratic nature of white feeling which emphasizes fear, violence, and accumulation. Logic allows the European a fictive narrative of mastery and control over the variety and unpredictable nature of life on Earth. In this way, the narratives of colonial metaphysics reflect a white fear and denial of the disordered and death-bound nature of life and reality.

Thus, this essay does not offer a counter-metaphysics. Rather, it develops a critique of metaphysics not as a given and immutable truth, but as a manifestation of global colonization. The language of this essay equivocates by calling European metaphysics "fictional" or "false" and using phrases such as "seems to," "trying to," or "attempts to." What I aim to do here is to resist, at the level of the word, Euramerica's attempt to naturalize whiteness as a defining principle of the globe and life itself. This essay also aims to demonstrate that the desire to transform European culture into a global metaphysics is a continuous and ongoing practice that repeats colonial metaphors and machinations at the level of the everyday. Colonial metaphors are not metaphysical but contextual within a given spatial and temporal epoch. They identify metaphysics as a European fictional mythology made general through global and colonial violence.

Colonial Metaphor

Drawing together the work of Black and Native feminists demonstrates how Black and Native people are transformed into colonial and gendered metaphors that reflect two halves of the same metaphysical question about the emergence of life on planet Earth. These scholars indicate that the colonial transformation of the African and Native American into property, into an object of possession, involves a metaphoric move. It uses the capacity of metaphor to misname Africans and Native Americans as objects.

I place these scholars in conversation to demonstrate that in the encounter between and pairing of the Indigenous people of Africa and the Americas, the white Euroamerican attempts to exert a global force in the ability to make populations move—what Lisa Lowe and Maile Arvin (Hawaiian) point out as the Atlantic triangle that enables and [End Page 66] undergirds the intimacy of four continents and two oceans.15 As essential characters in a white mythological narrative, the figures of the "African Slave" and "Indian Savage" highlight institutional convergence and make it possible to see how Black and Native communities are organized simultaneously with and against each other. The metaphoric and poetic pairing of Blackness and Indianness is violently open-ended, pulling in and transforming new and emergent Black and Native American performances of resistance into knowable and neutralizable practices for whiteness' consumption and appropriation. The colonial lines drawn between Black and Native people, then, are continually disrupted by the changing nature of colonial necessity and metaphor.

As conjoined symbols of negativity, the global institutions of Black slavery and Indigenous genocide attempt to murder African and Native American conceptions of the world. Unmooring these communities from their own processes of worlding through violence makes them available as abstract literary types and figures.16 In abstraction, they can be used as discrete entities or can be joined in various and contradictory ways in order to make new meaning and resolve new dilemmas for white colonists. Taken as a colonial pairing, Blackness and Indianness are structured, principally, not by any affiliation or intimacy with each other, but by the negative metaphors of colonialism.

As an anticolonial combination, Black and Native theoretical terms perform antagonism against the mediating figure of the white colonizer. Such a reading leaves room for interpretating the figure of the Black-Indian without presenting heterosexual reproduction and kinship connection as the central framework for reading Black and Native America together. It also allows us to read conflict between Black and Native communities as an invidious construction, as an intentionally cultivated division. However, when we combine the differing concepts central to Black and Native American political resistance, new sources of anticolonial intimacy and political convergence become possible, acting as different vantage points from which to unseat whiteness.

Criticizing the way white authors and colonists use the figure of the American Native as a means of creating a universal Euroamerican white narrative, Leslie Marmon Silko argues in her important essay "An Old Time Indian Attack in Two Parts" that colonial violence involves emptying Native American characters of any cultural, political, or spiritual content or narrative specificity. She says that the "Indian" characters of white literature have as little to do with actual Indigenous individuals as "Topsy" and "Uncle Tom" have to do with lived Black lives.17 Silko connects the literary caricature of Black and Native being through and in white writing. Transfiguring these communities into narrative archetypes changes them into what Silko calls the "grossest stereotype of all: the literary device."18 The transformation of Native life into a literary and narrative tool is an act of violence, a process of abstraction that supplants Native representations of Indigenous life with white conceptions of "Indian," "Red," and "Savage."

Silko's designation of "literary device" indicates the general transformation of Blackness and Indianness into various narrative tools—metonymy, mimeses (meme), apostrophe, exclamation, synecdoche, etc. In this constellation, Black and Native feminists name metaphor as a specifically pernicious colonial literary device, as the preeminent [End Page 67] literary tool. When Saidiya Hartman says in Scenes of Subjection that the "value of blackness resided in its metaphorical aptitude," she means that Blackness's fungibility is itself a metaphorical process, where the African is changed into an object. As object, the Black body becomes duplicatable, transposable, transformable, and plastic, or can be "understood as the imaginative surface upon which the master and the nation came to understand themselves."19 Rayna Green's use of the term "controlling metaphor" in her essay "The Pocahontas Perplex" and Patricia Hill Collins's phrase "controlling image" in her book Laboring Women corroborate Hartman's notion that metaphor operates not just as a literary tool, but as a base process of language that enables images of the mind as well as the connection between different and unconnected objects and mental pictures.20

Hortense Spillers adds to this criticism of metaphor when she says that the African in Middle Passage is transformed into a "resource for metaphor," a "metaphor for value" that "remains grounded in the originating metaphors of captivity and mutilation."21 However, even more importantly, she demonstrates how "the originating metaphors of captivity and mutilation" enable connections between unrelated objects. She does this by drawing ephemeral but important connections between Black and Native America through settlement and slavery. She says these institutions represent for "African and indigenous peoples" a scene of violence and banishment.22 I take the "and" between "African" and "indigenous" to signal both indigenous Africans and Native Americans and their simultaneous transformation into metaphor. These metaphors acquire a metaphysical potency that presents itself in and over Black and Native communities and their everyday lives.23 As metaphorical characters in a metaphysical narrative, the figures of the "African Slave" and "Indian Savage" are broad and capacious enough to represent paradigmatic, planetary alterity itself. But as Spillers points out, they are also joined by worldending violence.

Spillers demonstrates that these capacious colonial metaphors are gendered and (re)productive because they enable the proliferation of more and more metaphors of displacement: "The loss of the indigenous name/land provides a metaphor of displacement for other human and cultural features and relations, including the displacement of the genitalia, the female's and the male's desire that engenders future."24 Spillers and Rayna Green cite the various fictive names that Black and Indigenous American women are called in white cultural production to demonstrate the capacious and multiplicative capacity of Black and Native gendered metaphors. Black women are called "Peaches," "Brown Sugar," "Sapphire," "Earth Mother," "Aunty," "Granny," "God's Holy Fool," "Miss Ebony First," or "Black Woman"25 while Native women are dubbed "Carib Queen," "Pocahontas," "Squaw," "Mohee," "Chipeta," "Napanee," "Mother Goddess," "Little Red Wing"26 on the other. This pantheon of women characters indicates that misrecognition and replication are the primary functions of colonial metaphor. They aim to caricature through misnaming and then enable the proliferation of those false names by grafting them onto the reproductive and genealogical aspects of human sociality.

Green and Spillers further indicate that colonial metaphors register a conundrum particularly embodied in the terms of gender, sexual practice, and Black and Native American women's lives. Combining Spiller's notion of "ungendering" and Green's conception [End Page 68] of a gender "perplex," the "ungendered perplex" reflects the ascription of gender by colonial powers as a tool of domination. By an "ungendered perplex," I mean an incomprehensible array of symbols and meaning that mark the centrality of gender and sexuality to any and every generative process without allowing Black and Native people to constitute their own conceptions of either. These feminist scholars demonstrate that gender and sexual practice are not adjunctive to colonial violence but central to its practices of governance and meaning-making. As Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Mississauga Nishnaabeg) puts it, "this is sexual and gendered violence as a tool of genocide and as a tool of dispossession."27 The ungendered perplex of Black and Indigenous life allows these bodies, particularly women's bodies, to stand in for generative forces generally. If we take the predominant metaphors of Blackness and Indianness, ocean and land respectively, these metaphors allow Black women's bodies to stand in for the expansive openness of the ocean and the Native woman's body to become emblematic of the sidereality of land itself. In so doing, colonial metaphors imagine the capture of both figures as a compound metaphor, a metaphoric couplet, that represents the capture of continents, oceans, and the globe. Here, as Jodi Byrd (Chickasaw) points out, colonialism as worldmaking is done with aspiration toward a capitalist and Euromerican cosmocracy; which is to say, a Western metaphysics, a metaphysics of whiteness.28 The figures of the "African Slave" and "Indian Savage," then, become archetypical and paradigmatic characters in the white Euroamerican narrative and mythos of self, family, nation, and world, and are used to create white "mythical time" and "universal consciousness."29

These feminist scholars identify the relation between gender and colonialism because they aim to demonstrate the shared creative and multiplicative capacity of these concepts. Put another way, they work to show how gender and metaphor are used to create other, new concepts. Taken together, the generative capacities of metaphor, sex, and gender are doubled when they are combined and made to feed off one another. Gender-sexuality, like metaphor, has significant metaphysical implications because time is bound, metaphorically, to our conceptions of generational and genealogical continuity. Also, to speak of gender and metaphor in a colonial context is to speak of white colonists and their attempt to create—as a simulation of the reproductive capacity to create life itself—the world in the image of Europe. This colonial process necessitated a literal and abstract reproduction of whiteness, oftentimes through sexual violence.

Although this state of metaphoric being is applied to bodies gendered male and female by approximation, the assumed reproductive capacity of women's bodies is imagined to doubly correspond to the multiplicative capacity of metaphor: "metaphors are [End Page 69] responsible for creating the referents of meanings as well as the meanings themselves," where "new perspectives—new ideas, values, and ways of organizing experience [are] created."30 The comparative tensions between objects within the structure of metaphor generate a productive force that creates "new" meaning.31 The Western conceptions of gender, sexual practice, and women's bodies as reproductive entities link them to the productive power imagined in metaphor. As Jennifer Morgan points out, the symbolic potency of the language and metaphors of animal husbandry, reproductivity, and the nuclear family become strong signs that symbolize, all at once, the power to create life, the primal and natural world, the sociality of life, and the microcosm of the nation.32 The creative force of these metaphors of reproductivity overburdens Black and Indigenous women's bodies with a gestalt of metaphoric names and literary devices, doubling and thickening the metaphoric "layers of attenuated meaning."33

The paired and gendered metaphors of Blackness and Indianness enable metaphysics in the true sense—as a unitary definition of the "unchanging" essence of European life itself at the scale of the planet. The gendered and metaphoric representations of global colonialism reflect the European desire for the transition of metaphysics-as-epistemology to metaphysics-as-ontology. Metaphysics-as-epistemology registers the impossibility of true metaphysics by highlighting the particular development of specific conceptual traditions of knowledge as unique and germane to a particular people in a particular place and time. Metaphysics-as-ontology however, reflects the assumed Western fiction of unchanging essences necessary to being and the world. The movement from epistemology to ontology is attempted by shifting the European gendered perspective of the world from a local and specific understanding to a general and colonial one.

Colonial Metaphysics

Here, I want to highlight the connection between metaphor and metaphysic more concretely in the development of colonial history by extending Black and Native feminists' critiques of the intimate relation between these conceptions. These feminist scholars have indicated that metaphors are central to the problem of metaphysical philosophy because they are central to everyday language and thinking. Metaphor enables a transformation in which one thing is imagined to become, in essence, another. The verb of being, "is," within metaphor's structure collapses nouns, enabling catachresis and the conversion of beings, as Shona Jackson points out, "from and into . . . things . . . objects."34 It is a regime of misrecognition that sanctions itself as recognition through a set of references that makes new and emergent phenomena knowable to the white colonizer; this transforms new events and performances into objects of history.35 As a European philosophy, metaphysics reflects unchanging principles necessary for life itself. Yet, before the violence of New World conquest and the "Age of Discovery," metaphysics was decidedly non-metaphysical. Which is to say, it was particular because it could not fully account for the world in its entirety. It is and was the specific perspective of a particular people—Greco-Roman cum White European—in a certain place from which all their perceptions [End Page 70] and understandings of the world and the unfolding universe are drawn.36 The generalization of metaphysics, then, is an act of colonial violence.37

In the nineteenth century, metaphysics began to lose conceptual salience for three main reasons. The first of these shifts is the displacing of metaphysics with the primacy of "the subject" and "ontology" as the study of the life of the subject. In this particular turn, the subject is imagined as capacious enough so as to be coterminous with the universe itself. The second reason is the rise of physics and the inability of metaphysics to adhere to principles of logic and empiricism. In its appeal to pure abstraction, metaphysics eludes the realm of finitude and tangibility that became more and more essential to the rise of modernity. The third and final reason is the creation of continental-existential philosophy by first Friedrich Nietzsche and then Martin Heidegger, culminating in the works of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the existential adage, "existence precedes essence."38 In Sartre's quintessential and existential phrase, the "essential" principles central to metaphysics are subordinated by the subject as a microcosm for "existence" itself.39 In the wake of this shift, metaphysics moves away from its Aristotelian frame of "things that do not change" to refer to "life" generally.40 The idea comes to represent a broad cache of immaterial concepts essential to Western notions of existence broadly: time, space, linear narrative, individuality, subjectivity, civility, law, science, democracy, liberalism, universalism, humanism, globalism, etc.

However, these shifts are coterminous with the rise of global slavery and settlerism. The violence of these institutions is the precondition for the metaphysics of science and and the presumption that science can answer all questions of human existence. In the wake of the particularization of Christianity through the occurrence of "discovery," antiblackness and settler-colonial violence are used to represent metaphysical and scientific questions of life on planet Earth, creating "life" and "humanity" as objects of study. Wynter explains that this transition marks the creation of two distinct and new forms of universal being, Man 1 and Man 2.41 The former is structured by the European mythology of the Great Commission that imagines the planet as the object of the Christological unity, sublimated to Europeans as the fictive "chosen people" of God for the Puritan errand into the wilderness. The latter, seeking to conquer the first, finds the god in himself through reason, science, and self-discovery to create subjectivity and the scientific man, unbound from the whims and destiny of the divine and the abstraction of metaphysics.

It is this transition to "self-discovery," the "demystifying" of the world through colonial "discovery," that causes metaphysics to lose its salience as a field of philosophical inquiry and to be replaced by written literature as one of the most significant, if not the most significant, arenas for the creation and contemplation of the self. Colonial metaphors allow Europeans to compare and contrast life from different contexts and geographies vastly separated by distance to cultivate a falsely generalizable theory of existence across the globe. This allows them to assimilate the radical and divergent diversity of life—of flora and fauna—into a singular framework. But more than merely cataloguing the different forms of life, this European formula seeks to control the erratic nature of life and death. This attempt at global mastery enabled by metaphysics and colonialism [End Page 71] causes the displacement of metaphysics by presenting the European as a false divine arbiter of "things that do not change." For this reason, race and colonialism exemplify "the modern metacosmic imagination: it is the prototypical attempt to articulate a global conception of life in which ultimate sense is derived from the process of defining—or divining."42 Secularism is not the manifest demystification of the world by science and reason, but the narrative mystification of white Euroamerican colonial power through violence as fictive and planetary divinity.

Rather than effecting a true change, the demystification of metaphysics enables the transfer of the terms of metaphysics and its abstraction to science and the category of the subject. This transition is made possible by colonial metaphor. Antiblackness and settler colonialism move away from representation as discourse toward representation as metaphysics, as an immutable and unchanging principle of essence and life as such.43 Black and Native scholars have long argued that the category of the "human subject" is nothing if not the white Euroamerican as fictive master/settler/conqueror. In light of their criticisms, when we pair the terms of Black and Native Studies on a global scale, it becomes easy to see how the colonial coupling of the metaphors of Blackness and Indianness functions as a means through which the European imagines a falsely abstract universalism, undergirded by a violent materiality.

However, the binding of being to context is the corrective to metaphysical philosophy offered by Black and Native scholars. "The task, in short," Lewis Gordon explains, "is to address the problems between society and the self, the problem of socially situated existence under the force of institutional sites of power and terror. . . . One must address the transcendent and factical dimensions of human reality as a situated reality."44 The uniqueness of a body in place, its difference in relation to life as such, demonstrates that existence is singular and multiple, "at once psychic or psychological (consciousness) and corporeal, and in some sense the idea that there is a duality is merely a creation—and a mistake—of thought."45 But this Descartian split has as its source the transit of Europe across the face of the globe and the dream of white transcendence from the body. When Black and Native communities are taken as a pair, their separate concerns come together to represent composite parts of the same question about Europe's global spread. They contend that there is no abstract question, no thought or concept that does not precede from context—that is, the body and its position in place.

Metaphysics is a white mythology made general. As an essential linguistic and imaginative grammar in Western philosophy, metaphor enables the unfolding manifestation of Europe's aspiration towards metaphysics. Metaphor, like metaphysics, polices the boundary between the Western dialectics of the knowable and the unknowable, between life and its emergence, drawing in new actions into a gestalt of signs and symbols that constitutes world.46 Not only this, metaphors are presumed to be responsible for the incorporation of new and varying experiences without forfeiting older conceptions: "metaphor constitutes the indispensable principle for integrating diverse phenomena and perspectives without sacrificing their diversity."47 Despite the fact that these metaphors are capacious and transform, they maintain their principles over time, their [End Page 72] conceptual "essences," by way of continuity within a particular dialectic.48 Together, metaphor and dialectic operate in tandem to produce both structure and the means of structure's unending transformation and assimilation of new phenomena, and are primary grammars of a white global colonialism, consciousness, and metaphysics.

Blackness and Indianness: A Colonial and Poetic Pairing

Now that I have framed the centrality of colonial metaphor and colonial metaphysics with feminist critique, their connection to each other, and their connection to global colonialism, I want to apply this anticolonial criticism developed from Black and Native feminist theories to the work of white male colonial writing. Here, I argue that white colonial writing pairs and compares Black and Native America in the form of a poetic couplet. However, this pairing also enables an anticolonial poesies between these figures. I aim to demonstrate the dexterous use of colonial and gender metaphors to white conceptions of self.

I want to return to Madison's pairing because of its theoretical preeminence. Most often, scholars mention Madison's structuring in passing, using the phrase "bosom and border" as a short hand for Black and Native structuring generally. Others interpret his position of Red and Black as a hierarchy of problems. In such a formulation, the words "next to" imply an order of importance in which Indianness becomes a secondary problem to Blackness. Some point to other modes of relationality represented in Madison's phrasing. Casandra Jackson uses the word coupling, Ezra Tawil uses the term parallelism, while Patrick Wolfe indicates that there is no safe assumption of a connection beyond misfortune in Madison's phraseology.49 The phrase "next to," along with "bosom" and "border" in parallelisms, also signals geopolitical space and proximity, as in adjacent, congruent. Rendered in the "somatic metaphors" of "bosom" and "border," they form the inner and outer ambits of the American political order but also the surface and depth—the skin and flesh—of the white and national body.50 With all these varying interpretations taken together, Blackness and Indianness are made to represent an array of systems of oppression; they are made to signify an impossible collection of meanings and desires.

For this reason, "bosom" and "border," I argue, most strongly figure a poetic syncretism in and out of hierarchy. It is one example of a coupled form of Blackness and Indianness in which they are made to manifest as apposite and opposing extremes that exceed the content and frame of their comparison. Taking these interpretations together, Black and Native America are often made to elide and shift in relation to each other, dangerously shuttling between center and periphery, between "bosom" and "border," all at the whim of the mediating force of the white structure of the law. It is between and against the two oscillating figures of the paradigmatic "African Slave" and "Indian Savage" that the Euroamerican imagines himself as a reasoned medium between two extremes. Madison's construction of racial and colonial meaning engages literary symbolism to offer a paradigmatic rendering of the triangular relationship between Red, White, and Black. [End Page 73] In this construction, the conjoined metaphors of Blackness and Indianness "raises the specter of blacks and Indians as both threat and promise."51

If we read Madison's statement for the way it reflects philosophical and literary structures of meaning in the long history of global Euroamerican imperialism, and particularly in nineteenth-century American literature, it presents a New World paradigm, a tripartite formula of being and law that names, metaphorizes, and pairs Black and Native America as essential figures in a metaphysical narrative of white becoming. In this paradigm, they present an inchoate yet constant politics and poetics of conjunction-in-negativity in which Black and Native people are transformed into and via negative yet generative metaphors, and into a negative metaphoric and poetic pairing. Taken together, the metaphors of Blackness and Indianness are used to ask two halves of the same metaphysical question about being. "Bosom" and "border," together, are used to ask whether it is the body, Blackness/ bosom, or its environment, Indianness/ border, that determines the philosophical nature of existence. I take Madison's poetic coupling of Blackness and Indianness as indicative of a prevalent tendency throughout nineteenth-century American art, literature, and politics to pair the two.

The different predominant metaphors through which Blackness and Indianness are made manifest, the oceanic violence of transatlantic slavery and the land-centered project of settler colonialism, are significant points of Black and Native American connection and friction. Tiffany King explains that for Black Studies, "water, most often the Ocean, has been our faithful metaphor.52" Likewise, Audra Simpson indicates that colonization transforms Indigenous women's bodies into objects as a way of transforming Indigenous land—as the spiritual center of Indigenous life worlds—into property.53 These institutions are not hermetically sealed from one another. Rather, in relation to each other, the pairing of these figures demonstrates forces of predominant and negative emphasis rather than absolute and determining essence. Not only are they imagined as opposing elemental forms, but also, taken together, reflect the composite parts of the Earth taken as a whole. In both instances, Native American people and Black African people become overdetermined by the controlling metaphors of land and ocean respectively in their gendered and sexualized valences. Precisely because the West imagines these spaces as metaphoric opposites, as well as the composite parts of a planetary whole, a relation and tension is introduced in the symbolic encounter between Blackness and Indianness in a white mythos. It is the joined metaphors of Blackness and Indianness in white colonial writing that attempt to imagine a universal conception of the globe. They allow Europeans to imagine their mythology as a fictive universal narrative. [End Page 74]

In this white mythology, Black and Native encounters occur at the space between land and water, imagined as intimate and fractious zones: shoal, estuary, shore, coast, cape, delta, riverbank, swamp, promontory, peninsula, isthmus.54 This is the source of their littoral and invidious nature. In the Western framing of land and water as opposing elements, Black and Native Americans are made to take an invidious relationship to the other. The word "invidious" can be defined as, "Of a charge, complaint, report, etc.: Tending or fitted to excite odium, unpopularity, or ill feeling against some one. . . . Of a comparison or distinction: Offensively discriminating. . . . Of a thing: Fitted to excite ill feeling or envy against the possessor."55 The etymological root of the word comes from the Latin invidia, which means to cultivate "ill will," to make envious. My use of the coupled phrases littoral and invidious is meant to highlight how the differing designations of Black and Native American people by the coupled metaphors of Blackness vis-à-vis ocean and Indianness vis-à-vis land are meant to present each as possessing something the other lacks, even as they imagine them in abject negativity and unity. Within this framework, the Black body seems to possess a fluidity of being and movement whereas the Indian seems to possess the ground on which being and culture can stand. Both are false perceptions of European recognition. Both are made to perceive the other's sign of subjection as a sign of veneration. This perception is an explicit contriving of colonial mediation that produces a mutual misreading.

Taken together as intimate and frictional composites of the Earth, Blackness and Indianness reflect a pair of metaphysical problems and questions about the emergence of life on planet Earth more generally. Corroborating this notion, one official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs wrote in 1876: "Since our Government was organized two questions, or rather two classes of questions, have transcended all others in importance and difficulty, viz, the relations of the Government and the white people to the negroes and to the Indians."56 The sentence highlights the importance of the combined and distinct Black and Native metaphors to the emergence of whiteness and the U.S. as a nation. The interruptive clause interposes his transformation of both groups into a single class of conjoined metaphors composed of two fundamental "questions" to simultaneously mark their difference as "two classes of questions." This simultaneous move to mark both similarity—within the same class—and difference—two different classes—is an attempt to make both Black and Native intimacy and conflict available tools of colonial contrivance. But centrally, both their differences and similarities seem to be arranged by the white colonizer as a mediating figure that both joins and separates them. In this joined form, even when they reflect two different classes of questions, their separation aims to ask different aspects of the same metaphysical inquiry about the nature of politics and existence.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also joins Black and Native America as an essential pairing in his 1844 essay The Poet when trying to describe the nature of the white American character. He indicates their joining is a defining political and aesthetic problem for the United States: "Our logrolling, our stumps and their politics, our fisheries, our Negroes, and Indians, our boats, and our repudiations, the wrath of rogues, and the pusillanimity [End Page 75] of honest men, the northern trade, the southern planting, the western clearing."57 The "Negro" and the "Indian" are a coupled form. What facilitates this coupled arrangement, what punctuates the "and" in the formulation of their combination, is that they are both objects of white becoming. The emphasis in Emerson's construction is placed on the collective white possessive "our" of the phrase "our Negroes, and Indians."58 It is under the weight of these abstractions, existing as "questions," "problems," "objects," and "art" that Black and Native communities are transformed into metaphors. However, their connection via metaphor only occurs in the glimpses of their poetic relation. Their intimacy is articulated in and by the break.

Two significant forms of the colonial combination between the terms of Blackness and Indianness can be seen in William Blake's 1796 engraving "Europe Supported by Africa and the Americas" and Alexis de Tocqueville's pastoral vignette that closes his 1835 text Democracy in America. There is an uncanny similarity between the engraving and the vignette. In Blake's case, the image, printed in John Gabriel Stedman's text The Narrative of the Five Year Expedition against the Revolted Slaves of Surinam, depicts the figure of a white European woman framed on both sides by an African woman and an Native American woman respectively, all in apparent embrace. The three women are set in a minimalist but serene pastoral. They are naked with flowers at their feet, and they seem to stand on an immense but distant mountain range. To their backs, the vast openness of the empty sky signals the fictional vacant space of African and American terra nullius.

Seeming to repeat Blake's image with one notable difference, Tocqueville ekphrastically recreates the romantic pastoral in this vignette. He describes a scene of domestic intimacy set near a spring in the Alabama woods. While there, he sees a chance yet idyllic scene. A Native American woman, a white-creole girl-child, and an enslaved African woman emerge from the woods and seat themselves on the opposite bank of the creek. In the presence of the child, these women are clothed, though dressed in stereotypical "savage" and "tattered" slave garb. Spying on them from an unseen hiding place, he portrays in intimate detail the savagery of the Native woman, the obsequiousness of the enslaved African, and the seeming "condescension" of the young white child.

Tocqueville's rendering replaces Blake's adult and fully formed European woman—and all her demure affect—with that of a young and condescending white-creole, Euroamerican girl-child. He describes her as fixed between the affections of the two figures that attend to her. This revision is meant to signify the transformation of the European in the context of America, the American revolution, and the budding power of the United States as a fictional, young "democracy." However, much like her European mother, the little white girl is buttressed on both sides by an African and a Native American woman who she commands via her affect and affections. While the European mother and the white-creole child come to represent true femininity, Black and Native women experience the process by which they are criminalized, ungendered, desexed, and assigned colonial gender norms within a European structure.59 Although gender and sex are ascribed to them, they cannot claim it and are instead objects through which to fortify European notions of white gender and heteronormativity, inducing an "(un)gendered [End Page 76] perplex." Sylvia Wynter and Sharron Holland indicate that when the concept of gender becomes bound to the concept of colonialism, no intimacy is to be had between the figure of the white woman and Black and Native women.60 These two women are meant to metaphorically symbolize the forces of African slavery and Native American genocide that form the substructure of both Old-World European kingdoms and New-World American democracy.

In lieu of a full reading of Blake and Tocqueville, I want to emphasize the metaphorical relationship between Blackness and Indianness as a poetic pairing registered in the similarity between Blake's engraving and Tocqueville's vignette. Put another way, the relationship between these two depictions is their repetition of familiar racialized and gendered metaphors, with a difference pertaining to the growth and transformation of whiteness. The transformation marks the modernization of the European women from Christian-bound subject to secular self-determinism. As Aileen Moreton-Robinson (Goenpul) demonstrates, white women's privilege of demure condescension is a product of colonialism and race.61 With the absence of Black and Native American masculinity and with Black and Native womanhood acting as catalysts, the movement from white European womanhood in Blake to white American creole girlhood in Tocqueville reflects the European's desire to become germane to the globe generally. This movement from the place of Europe to the place of the Americas coupled with the generational movement from European ancestor to creole descendant reflects a simultaneous attempt to appropriate space and time. The repetition of the language and metaphors of race and colonialism seeks to appropriate space—and the body as a unit of space measurement.62 Similarly, the language and metaphors of racialized gender attempt to appropriate the reproductive capacity of women's bodies—and generational continuity—as an approximate appropriation of time. These Euroamerican racial-colonial and gendered-sexed metaphors combined might be said to provide the European with a false metaphysics, a fictional narrative of mastery over space and time.

The triangulations of Red, White, and Black that I have highlighted establish a metapoetic relationship between the gendered metaphors of Blackness and Indianness. While the Black and Native women in Blake and Tocqueville's renderings share the frame with their mediator, the European woman and her white-creole American daughter, they are presented as having no relation to each other except the violence of colonial bondage. As a result, no "true" knowledge can be gained about the relationship between these two figures as long as the source of their metaphors and mediation persists, as long as [End Page 77] the white child or her white mother umpire their interaction. Both mother and child must be uprooted, unmoored, and unmade before we can truly assess the relationship between Red and Black. It is the affect of demure European womanhood and the budding condescension of white American girlhood that adjudicates any and all relation between the two figures and their gendered practices in this triangular structure.

Precisely because this mediating structure continuously connects and separates them, these depictions establish a metapoetic relation between Blackness and Indianness. While they share an overburdened symbolic relationship to one another in the negative rhythm and rhyme of settlerism and enslavement, they are separated by a white line, the poetic cesura, the cut of colonial violence. This metapoetic framing constantly seeks to pair them together even as it strives to hold them apart. Despite the seeming obtuse and uneven nature of their comparison and positioning, it is the fact of their constant twinning in couplet form, the constant effort to join them together by an oppressive white line, that marks the centrality of their relationship to one another.

Black and Native poetic relation has less to do with the immediate content of their comparison and more with the fact of their comparison. What I mean here is that the different content of their comparison matters less than the violence that brings them into proximity to be compared in the first place. For this reason, their encounter cuts across a range of relations and points of convergence. Land and water are only one of a plethora of paired metaphors that bind Black and Native America symbolically. Bartolomé de las Casas' notion of Native subjugation as genocidal decrease and African slavery as a plague of increase also performs this coupling.63 Other such pairings include the tropes of the stoic Indian and the noble slave; the merciless savage, the obsequious slave; the call and response of the stomp dance, the call and response of the spiritual; blood quantum, the one drop rule; the encomienda, the plantation. Another significant form of joining between the terms of Blackness and Indianness is represented in the shared criminality of the figures of the revolting African Slave and the "merciless Indian Savage" represented in Thomas Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence and in Tocqueville's concluding depiction of racial conflict pitting whites against Black and Native Americans. Both the specter of violence against and violence from Black and Native people animate white colonial imagination and action.

Black and Native American relations stem centrally from their profound and shared experience of colonial violence and the white fear that they may want to inflect "racial revenge." Bringing Black and Native resistance and politics together enables what I call "political syncretism," which is the coming-together of two different subordinated communities against a third and powerful enemy. Put another way, the old adage, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" applies here. For this reason, Blackness and Indianness and their gendered/sexed valances are of a piece. Bringing these two figures into proximity is the opening of the world through colonial crime and murder. The violent practices of settler occupation and chattel slavery—articulated in the language of Manichean good-and-evil and lex talionis principles of just return—are the essential foundation of Tocqueville and Jefferson's democratic drama and the possible source of its upending. [End Page 78] As varying manifestations of negativity and death in their material and abstract forms, Blackness and Indianness serve as metaphors that ask different but related questions: What happens to the soul if the body dies? What happens to the body if the soul dies? Is it place (nature-Indianness) or the body-being (nurture-Blackness) that defines humanity?

With Chapman, Blake, Tocqueville, and Madison in mind, the potency and constancy of the metaphoric couplet of Black and Native America highlight how the white settler state solicits Black and Native violence by constructing and contrasting these archetypical figures as criminals in their very being, as inherently violent. The capacious metaphoric capacity of these two figures leads to a significant overlap in an assumed criminality of being. In their gendered renderings, these figures are imagined as sexually deviant; and this deviance justifies making them constant targets for sexualized violence. Their significant convergence via the institutions of slavery and settler colonialism produces deep intimacy and incongruity, concordance and dissonance. This fraught metaphoric connection is what Byrd calls the "parallax gap" which can be described as shifting perspectives between two sides of the same event that cannot politically meet.64 Metaphor's ability to combine symbols and make new meaning emphasizes connection, even fraught parallax linkages, and creates political syncretism between the political terms of Blackness and Indianness. Their relation in comparison produces variant other representations, multiplying endlessly to represent death.


By implication rather than by direct address, my focus on the paired metaphoric and poetic connection between Blackness and Indianness intervenes in the debate between Black and Native American Studies. Outlining this debate in full would require its own essay. Suffice it to say, the focus of this here study is not the debate itself but the ability to poetically combine Black and Native criticism without collapsing them as a ground for possibility. This essay attempts this combination of Black and Native anticolonial feminist theory to demonstrate that despite their different histories and experience, those differences and similarities are themselves a manifestation of colonial comparison, pairing, and conflict.

Like Denise Ferreira da Silva, I am "not interested in a critique of a metaphysics of race, if the latter is an exercise that would address 'the first principles' of something that is a given, and thus a speculative inquiry into that thing's being or essence."65 Colonial and gendered metaphors are not metaphysical but contextual within a given spatial and temporal epoch. They identify metaphysics as a European fictional mythology made general through global violence. A colonial metaphysics is made manifest by the continued and daily targeting of Black and Indigenous persons as criminal under the whiteness of the law, not by any immutable truth about metaphysics itself. Race, colonialism, and heteropatriarchy even as metacosmic narratives, then, are not inevitable but are reproduced at the level of the everyday. Even as the conjoined metaphors of Blackness and Indianness are used by white writers to imagine metaphysics, these paired metaphors [End Page 79] also mark the impossibility of metaphysics by the constant need for these familiar metaphors to assimilate new phenomena. For this reason, the figures of the "African Slave" and "Indian Savage" are laden with arbitrary and derogatory meaning and are supplemented by numerous other literary devices that transform these characters into a literary gestalt that enables them to do general, specific, and emergent conceptual work leading to particular symbolic emphasis, overlap, and divergence.

Rather than indicating difference alone, the divergent yet apt metaphoric pairings of Blackness and Indianness represent the synthesis of a coherent order of European nomos and international law whose essential parts are land and ocean/sea: "The first nomos of the earth . . . was based on a particular relationship between the spatial order of firm land and the spatial order of free sea, and for 400 years it supported a Eurocentric international law: the jus publicum Europaeum."66 Put more accurately, the world comes together as a nomos of Red Earth and Black Sea. The similarities and differences between these two communities are contrived. Neither similarity nor difference on their own can articulate the full range of problems which they have been used to address.

Nevertheless, if we highlight the metaphoric and poetic conjoining of Blackness and Indianness as a central phenomenon for the creation of the modern white world, then their combination also, necessarily, holds significant insight for the upending of such a world. The paired form of Blackness and Indianness might allow a longstanding and strong conversation between Black and Native American Studies that would provide a forked-tongue response to ongoing colonialism and antiblackness. But the anticolonial nature of their connection can only come into view when we articulate that their link is made possible by their shared proximity to death. This focus on shared negativity allows, as Frank B. Wilderson III points out, a "possible network of connections, transfers, and displacements" between a "genocided thing and fungible and accumulated thing" without the need for analogy.67 In the apt chaos of their comparison, there is design and paradigmatic accord—whether deliberately or by coincidence. The two figures are not only ranked but are also imagined as complimentary, apposite, opposite figures that resist the very formulation of their hierarchization. In this poetic reading, the conceptual friction between Blackness and Indianness as colonial metaphors acts as a creative force and helps in the repetition and reproduction of an aspirational colonial metaphysics. Not only this, these white writers show that the autopoetic relation between Blackness and Indianness is made most poignant and creative when it is expressed in the terms of gender and heterosexual reproduction.

The appropriation of the Black and Native body becomes metonymic of a modern political order that appropriates being and context to affect a divine power to create life and planet itself. This power attempts to control the body and its movement in space through institutional violence. In this way, whiteness dreams of transcending earthliness by imagining the subjection of the Black and Native body as representative of the subjection of land and sea, which is to say, the planet itself. The principle at the heart of Western philosophy is a desire to transcend the body, Earth, and materiality, ascending solely as an abstract and universal consciousness of cosmic reason. European attempts [End Page 80] to conquer Native America and to enslave Africans reflect colonial desires to conquer the spirit of the Earth and to enslave being and life itself. Taken together, to colonize and enslave Black and Native America allows the European to fictively enslave being and conquer the context of being's emergence.

Metaphor is central to the property relation of both settlerism and slavery because it is how Black and Native being is transformed and misrecognized as thing. With these Black and Native feminist scholars in view, it might be possible to argue that the constitutive elements of chattel slavery steal the being of the enslaved African from any philosophical or geopolitical context. Inversely, it can be argued that in the case of Native America, it is context itself, land, the very ground for the emergence of being, that is stolen. But both instances of theft and murder register a principal crime against being, asking whether it is being that makes context, or context that produces being. They are two sides of the same metaphysical question, a principal concern with the emergence of life—and particularly human life—in the world. In this sense, Black and Native America are philosophically of a piece. They are bound together despite their seeming opposition. The relationship between metaphor and metaphysics allows us to discern the particular ways that Blackness and Indianness are imagined in relation to one another via death and colonial violence.

The littoral and invidious intimacy between these two figures, mediated by the figure of the white colonizer, is used to cultivate divisions and to prevent their mutual conjoining against a singular and common enemy—white Euroamerica. Black and Indigenous people are co-constitutively imagined as criminal and violent in their very being. Black and Native American political demands, regardless of the moral and ethical grounds of their claims are interpreted as criminal. This criminality is the source of their coming together.

Although the pairing of Black and Native America reflects colonial formulas of control, the poetic nature of their pairing also enables a conjoined set of powerful and impossible political demands. In acknowledging the cultural and political impasses between Black and Native America, the coupled forms of Blackness and Indianness simultaneously acknowledge the source of their intimacy and conflict, the mediating figure in their relationship. This tacit claim acknowledges that for Black and Native people to truly meet, the source of their mediation would have to be undone.

If we heed the words of Eve Tuck (Unangax) and Wayne Yang that anticolonialism might employ metaphors but is decidedly not metaphorical, then we realize that the combination of Black and Native art, theory, and literature is merely a necessary first step. This process of metaphoric combination must eventually become a Black and Native politics of resistance and develop political demands in the real world. These demands are the simultaneous call for the abolition of the state and for the assertion of [End Page 81] Black and Indigenous sociality and politics. When Black and Native political demands are combined, the heft and scale of their shared agenda leaves no room for the fiction of an ethical or universal Europe or white America. Their joint demands for the end of the white world indicate an essential relation more powerful than the structures that mediate their relationship. This is because their demands do not ask if white supremacy will end, they assume its end as an inevitability, and merely seek to ascertain when, where, and how such a possibility can be made manifest. They move in tandem; they have parity in the magnitude of the tyranny that brings them into proximity. Blackness and Indianness are not bound to the content of their comparison because their complementary pairing cuts across a range of iterations. It is the fact of their constant and particular twinning by colonials that points to the necessity of their paradigmatic intimacy and demands a political agenda of their conjoining against white structures of power. The capaciousness of the metapoetic capacity of Blackness and Indianness allows us to join their political demands together, not in analogy but in poetic rhythm. Black and Native feminisms provide the most salient model for this poetic combination because of their respective theorizations of the layered, linked, interconnected, and dexterous structures of slavery, settler colonialism, gender, sexuality, class, disability, ecology, etc. The symbiosis of Black and Native political demands, under a feminist framework, provides a way to resist the false naturalization of whiteness as inevitable by assuming the ever-present and impending nature of death and the end of the white-dominated world. [End Page 82]

Chad Benito Infante

Chad Benito Infante is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature in the English Department at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on Black and Indigenous U.S. and Caribbean literature, gender, sexuality, critical theory, and political philosophy.


1. Madison, "Letter to Thomas Thomas McKenney," 515.

2. Madison, 515–16.

3. The quote comes from Donald F. Lindsey's book Indians at Hampton Institute, 1877–1923, (52).

4. My use of the term "Indianness" is drawn from Jodi Byrd's work in Transit of Empire that uses it to reference a paradigmatic and global structuring of power in relation to Native America. Byrd explains "that ideas of the Indian and Indianness—the contagion through which U.S. empire orders the place of peoples within its purview—emerge as distinct problems for critical and postcolonial theories. As a transit, Indianness becomes a site through which U.S. empire orients and replicates itself by transforming those to be colonized into 'Indians' through continual reiterations of pioneer logics, whether in the Pacific, the Caribbean, or the Middle East. The familiarity of 'Indianness' is salve for the liberal multicultural democracy within the settler societies that serve as empire's constituency" (xiii).

5. Derrida, "White Mythology," 18.

6. Derrida, 31. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "metaphor" as "a figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicable." Contrary to the OED's definition, metaphors need not depend on analogy. Metaphor, unlike analogy, does not require logic as the source of articulating the relation between two compared objects. The abstract, open-ended, and poetic nature of metaphor means that the literary device oftentimes exceeds the defined boundaries of its meaning.

7. Schafer, "Modernity, Metaphysics, and the Re-Invention of Philosophy," 7: Derrida defines metaphysics as "a white mythology which assembles and reflects western culture: the white man takes his own mythology (that is, Indo-European mythology), his logos—that is, the mythos of his idiom—for the universal form of that which it is still his inescapable desire to call Reason" ("White Mythology," 11). For this essay, there is no true distinction between Judeo-Christian metaphysics or a secular metaphysics because both are manifestations of whiteness. Rather, this essay demonstrates the way Christian metaphysics is transferred to the white subject through the process of colonial secularization.

8. Derrida, "White Mythology," 42.

9. Evie Shockley quotes Harriet Mullen's definition of "innovation," which Mullen says poetry is best suited to (Renegade Poetics, 11).

10. Miles, "His Kingdom for a Kiss," 168.

11. I come to the notion that Black and Native America are "alike in their difference" from the term "similitude" as it is used in the theological sense, as the connection between principles that are imagined as alike in their difference. I draw the phrase "similitude" from Marie-José Mondzain's study of Medieval art and theology, Image, Icon, Economy (34). "Similitude," as Mondzain explains it in the context of early Christian theology, is the concept that describes the relation between the three parts of the trinity as alike in their difference. In other words, similitude describes the equal and nonhierarchical relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost—God within the human—as equal in their difference. She goes on to explain the concept of "economy" as the circuit of relation between these three equal parts. I draw on the word to indicate the equal yet differing designation of the subjection of both Black and Native America.

12. Wilderson III, Red, White & Black, 37 and 182.

13. Wynter, "Black Metamorphosis," 9–12: Trask, Notes from a Native Daughter, 31.

14. Da Silva, "Reading the Dead," 41–2; Moten, In the Break, 6; Simpson, Mohawk Interuptus, 11.

15. Lowe, The Intimacy of Four Continents, 1; Arvin, Possessing Polynesians, 3–5.

16. That this type is "enacted through racialized, gendered, and sexualized images of Indigenous women/femininity and men/ masculinity—presumably all heterosexual and of a generic tribe—is not a curiosity or happenstance. It is the point" (Barker, Critically Sovereign, 3).

17. Silko, "An Old Time Indian Attack," 212.

18. Silko, 213.

19. Hartman, Scenes of Subjection, 7.

20. Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 69; Green, "Pocahontas Perplex," 703.

21. Spillers, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe," 66, 68.

23. Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 69.

24. Spillers, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe," 73.

26. I draw these various phrases from the entirety of Green's essay "Pocahontas Perplex."

27. Simpson, As We Have Always Done, 97.

28. Byrd, Transit of Empire, 1–2.

29. Spillers, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe," 66; Silko, "An Old Time Indian Attack," 212.

30. Hausman, "Metaphor and Art," ix.

32. Morgan, Laboring Women, 172.

33. Spillers, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe," 65.

34. Shona Jackson uses this phraseology in her talk on the panel "Black Notes on Native Studies" at the American Studies Association conference in 2018.

35. Warren, "Black Time," 56.

36. Deloria, The Metaphysics of Modern Existence, 9.

37. Douglas and Wilderson III, "The Violence of Presence," 117–18.

38. Schafer, "Modernity, Metaphysics, and the Re-Invention of Philosophy," 1–7.

41. Wynter, "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being," 246.

42. Hickman, "Globalization and the Gods," 156–57.

43. In a colonial field of play, written literature is then imagined as the space in which the Euroamerican subject self-actualizes in the world in place of a thick conception of metaphysics and religion. Literary possibility becomes the authorizing power of the sovereign will of the subject and replaces the epic and religion in the production of myth in the Barthian sense. Centrally, metaphor operates as the most significant literary device for narrative self-making because it allows for the maintenance of old conceptions even as it creates new ones (Hausman, "Metaphor and Art," 7–8). It allows the writer to assimilate new phenomena into his/her being while maintaining the fiction of the autonomous and individual self.

44. Gordon, Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism, 31.

45. Scott, Extravagant Abjection, 63.

46. Leddy, "Metaphor and Metaphysics," 206. This metaphoric aptitude perpetuates the European dialectic of "African slave" and "White Master" and "Indian Savage" and "White Settler." Although these metaphors are capacious and transformative, they maintain their principles, their conceptual essence, over time by way of continuity within a particular dialectic (209).

47. Berggren, "The Use and Abuse of Metaphor," 273.

48. Leddy, "Metaphor and Metaphysics," 209.

49. Tawil, The Making of Racial Sentiment, 59; Jackson, Barriers Between Us, 12; Wolfe, "Race and the Trace of History," 290.

50. Tawil, The Making of Racial Sentiment, 59–60.

51. Gardner, Master Plots, 3.

52. King, "In the Clearing," 225.

53. Simpson, "The State is a Man," 1.

54. King, The Black Shoals, 3–4.

55. OED, "invidious."

56. I draw this citation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs from Native legal scholar David E. Wilkins in his paper "African Americans and Aboriginal Peoples: Similarities and Differences in Historical Experiences," 520.

57. Emerson, "The Poet," 465.

58. Here, I want to combine Aline Morton Robinson's and Cheryl Harris's work, both of which emphasize the acquisitive and covetous nature of whiteness that transforms Black and Native peoples and places into objects of capital. Robinson, The White Possessive, 3–4; Harris, "Whiteness as Property," 1716.

59. Goeman, "Ongoing Storms and Troubles," 110.

60. Wynter, "Beyond Miranda's Meaning," 356–57; Holland, "Queer(s) Reading."

61. Robison, Talking up to the White Woman, xx.

62. King, "In the Clearing," 44.

63. Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island, 102.

64. Byrd, 29.

65. Da Silva, "Note for a Critique of the 'Metaphysics of Race,'" 139.

66. Schmitt, Nomos of the Earth, 4.

67. Wilderson III, Red, White & Black, 182.

Works Cited

Arvin, Maile. Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawaiʹi and Oceania. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.
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