Teaching About Power and Inequity When Qualitative Methods Are Devalued

Ethnic studies was born from community, student, and faculty struggles that literally shut universities down over issues like racism and colonialism. The discipline that emerged from that contentious birth is a broad field that centers a critical analysis of systems of power and supports resistance to inequality. In the universities where I have taught ethnic and gender studies courses very few of my students are majors. Most students come from a wide variety of other departments and enroll as an elective because they are concerned with social issues and want to understand them deeper in order to make change in their worlds, reflecting the original mission of the field. Other students enroll as a required diversity course and may harbor suspicion, resentment, and resistance to the perspectives of the oppressed that we center in our work. Students also arrive with different levels of academic preparation. Teaching a mixed skill level class is difficult but the biggest challenge to teaching ethnic and gender studies is getting past the problematic assumptions about the field that students can arrive with.

My course may be a student’s first exposure to humanities or social science as well as the first time they’ve encountered perspectives by authors who are not straight cis white men. Usually my students are curious about the course topic and genuinely interested in learning something new. But sometimes they arrive with a common, troubling and incorrect assumption that our field is purely subjective and opinion based. Despite their interest in the themes of the course, they tend to see ethnic and gender studies as a field without method, without evidence, and purely based in the hurt feelings and uninformed opinions of people of color, women, queer, and trans folk.

Such assumptions are offensive on many levels, and they inform students’ initial perceptions and expectations of the course that I must overcome. However, those assumptions are shaped in part by dominant society’s systematic devaluation of non-western forms of knowledge production and the ways that non-STEM fields are seen as limiting employment opportunities, and therefore lacking merit in a capitalist and consumerist world. Those assumptions are also shaped by student experiences with humanities and social sciences courses that might not provide opportunities to study the social construction of knowledge, interrogate what constitutes evidence, or to learn clearly articulated qualitative research methodologies. Qualitative data and non-western ways of knowing challenge the positivism of mainstream education and can be daunting for students who have not been taught how to evaluate such materials nor that they evidence and not just opinions.

When teaching about structural inequities, I often do rely upon statistics to get past the resistance of students who think inequality doesn’t exist. Quantitative data can be very useful for this purpose. But when it comes to the core skills that my courses are designed to teach such as how to critically analyze a text for its evidentiary biases, how to evaluate a writer’s craft choices, and how to consider the impacts of certain discourses on how we understand social problems, rather than just summarize the text like a fourth grade book report, most college students are failing. There are several possible reasons for this, but I have found that emphasizing research and analysis methodologies in my pedagogy has been the most useful tool to get past student resistances to ethnic and gender studies content.

There is always the student in my classes who “just wants to know the right answer to get an A” and who resists learning research methodologies. Typically this student is accustomed to what Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire called the “banking method” of education, where students memorize and regurgitate data imparted by an instructor. Activities that require more complex functions such as application, creativity, or problem solving are met with resistance by students accustomed to less effort. Early in my teaching I was surprised by how many students responded to my creative assignments where they could practice their skills and prepare for work in the real world by requesting standardized exams instead. At first I assumed these students were lazy or resistant to the course content but when I challenged my own assumptions and engaged these students to find out why they resisted the assignments, their responses were often that creative tasks they couldn’t control gave them unbearable anxiety. These students actually really cared about the course content and their grades but they lacked practice in more applied and creative work and this made the assignments stressful. I found that the more explicit I could make the structure of the research and analysis methods I expected, the less anxiety these students experienced and the more they excelled in their work. 

I was also shocked by how students tried to get me to divulge my political positions so they could “just know what you want us to say” when I asked them questions and provided assignments where they would have to learn to evaluate evidence and construct an argument. Eventually, I understood that this was not so much about a politics of political correctness as the students often phrased it, but really was a comment on the limitations of their prior banking method training and their fears of speaking their mind and being attacked by others. Social anxiety daunted students who had not had sufficient practice in discussing politically charged topics. My students in general were not lazy nor uninterested. Most of them actually wanted an opportunity to think critically about and discuss the topics we were engaging but they just had not been trained in how to do it. So how do we change this?

Identifying your research methods

During my second year in graduate school, I sat in a seminar where we worked to prepare our methodological exam papers, dumbfounded that amongst all of the cultural studies majors in my cohort, none of us could really identify what the research methodologies for cultural studies were. It seemed that many of the academic books we were reading, particularly if they were humanities focused, did not define a clear research method either. The frustration of this situation pushed me to self-train myself in research methods and to transform my teaching approach so that my students would hopefully not catch themselves in a similar conundrum.

This is a list of some sample qualitative research methods commonly used in the social sciences and humanities to analyze historical and contextual data or interpret meaning, relationships, causes, and impacts across phenomenon:

  • analyzing primary source material (archives, laws, policies, interviews, case studies, etc.)

  • discourse and rhetorical analysis

  • narrative analysis

  • structural or material analysis of an author’s/artist’s work

  • contextualization (analyze causality, influence, and the historical or social context)

  • evaluating the evidence and structure of an argument

  • analyzing the craft choices and techniques used by an author or artist

  • analyzing social and material relations

  • analyzing complex systems, relationships, and interactions

  • debunking assumptions and opinions with evidence

  • unveiling the ways that culture, common sense, social categories, systems of power, ways of seeing and experiencing the world are socially constructed

  • posing critical questions about ethics, impacts, and social structures

  • grounded or inductive methods (evaluation of empirical data, observation, and evidence)

Often it is easier for students to understand research methods that can be more quantitative or that utilize fieldwork and observation. Research methods that rely upon object or textual analysis are sometimes viewed by students as not being evidence or observation based because math, measurements, or fieldwork are not involved and students have been told these are the only worthy forms of analysis. The challenge to this internalized positivism is to first get students to understand what kinds of evidence you are examining and how these things actually become legitimate evidence, as well as what the politics are behind who decides what is legitimate evidence and why. From there, you can build readings, lectures, activities, and assignments that teach the student what the research method is and how to do it themselves.

How to incorporate skills or methods into a learning objective

Clear learning objectives can cover the concepts and definitions you want students to understand, the concrete skills you want students to master, and the research methods you are presenting and modeling in your lectures and course materials. Sometimes I will break learning objectives up into categories such as this so that students know the various tasks I expect them to concentrate on.

In interdisciplinary fields like ethnic or gender studies we have a tendency to focus our learning objectives on the theories and concepts we want students to understand, such as the idea that gender and race are social constructs, without addressing the underlying research methods to identify social constructs. By doing this, we miss the opportunity for students to develop skills to  know their world in more critical ways. This also contributes to students’ perception that our courses present theories that lack evidence and method, because we simply don’t make evidence, skills, and method explicit in our teaching when we only focus on identifying and comprehending concepts and theories.

Take the skill you want students to learn and reword it as a learning objective. For example, right now I am teaching a course on Native American Literature. One of the main things I want students to learn is how to evaluate the craft choices of creative writers because this is a literature course. Hence, one learning objective is, “by the end of this course you should be able to define common craft techniques of poetry and fiction such as pacing of action, plot structure, and poetic meter.” But if I just stopped there at the skills of identify and define, I would not be teaching my students any new research methods.

So another learning objective is that students will know how to critically analyze a text instead of simply summarizing it. Here my goal is that students learn the difference between summary and analysis and are able to perform a critical analysis. But since students are often confused on what is meant by the term “critical analysis” and how it differs from a summary, I need to communicate my expectations. For this courses I define analysis as a set of specific skills I want students to master such as compare and contrast, evaluate the impacts of historical context on the text, etc. These are laid out in rubrics and explained in lecture examples as what I consider the steps of analysis for this course that form a research process.

A third learning objective is how to apply a theoretical concept to an analysis of a text. I give students a list of the theories we are learning and make sure they comprehend them. For example, in this class I am teaching Dian Million’s concept “Felt Theory”, which is a form of narrative analysis that considers the embodied, lived experiences of Indigenous women as evidence and the narrative choices Indigenous women use in telling their stories as formations of theory about the world and colonial power relations. I give assignments where students can practice applying the theories in their research, kind of like problem-solving activities. So I had students concept map the article then take a memoir we read in the course and analyze it using felt theory as an analytic in a short research paper. In lecture I explained what that paper would look like structurally and what my grading rubrics were in clear and concrete terms.

By the end of the class, the students should be prepared to move on to other courses in either Literature or Native Studies, but they should also know how to apply their knowledge to the real world. Most of my students are not Native American studies majors. Very few of them will ever become creative writers. Instead they want to be K-12 teachers, public health workers, therapists, and social workers. They are taking the class because they want to work with Native communities, so I need to frame learning objectives in a way that will help them with their future goals.

I want them to understand and value their experience in the course because it serves as an introduction to Native issues and qualitative research methods that may assist them in their future work. This means making the research methods explicit so that students know that they should not extrapolate stereotypes of Native peoples from this one course or think now they know everything there is to know about Native communities. But rather, that now they should be prepared with basic cultural competency and the tools needed to do further research on Native issues. 

A final word on teaching non-western and feminist epistemological methods

In ethnic and gender studies fields we teach non-western, feminist, queer, and trans epistemologies. We are critical of the historically oppressive underpinnings of western knowledge production, including the way theories of positivism and empiricism have devalued evidence and knowledges that are affective, sensory, lived, and embodied. So we critically interrogate theories of objectivity and neutrality as systems that maintain and legitimize the power dynamics that marginalize people of color, Indigenous peoples, the disabled, women, queer, and trans folks.

To students who have spent most of their lives in an educational system that teaches positivism and objective neutrality as truths while dismissing any critiques of these theories and any other form of knowledge production our courses can seem mystifying, confusing, and even upsetting. I have found it helpful to address this learning process by clearly articulating the research methods that have emerged from non-western, feminist, queer, and trans epistemologies so students can develop tools to do the often more complex work that these ways of knowing foster.

In doing so, it is useful to explain to students the relationships between the ontologies (ways of being) you are studying and the epistemologies (ways of knowing) that emerge from those states of being. Once that is understood, then the epistemology can be analyzed through clearly articulated research methods.

It’s also important to directly address criticism from students who want to use their own limited personal experience to refute the lesson you are teaching. I often get white students who refute the existence of racial privilege because they don’t feel that they personally experience it. In situations like these I may use a mix of qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate the existence of the object of study (racism). But I’m careful not to take up too much class time proving the existence of our object of study and I discuss with students how inappropriate a challenge to the object of study would be in any of their other classes so they know this is not academically acceptable behavior. You don’t walk into biochemistry arguing that cellular molecules don’t exists do you? No. You are there to learn how to study them. Same goes for racism, sexism, etc. in an ethnic studies class.

I also talk about how to know the difference between an alternative epistemology emerging from the lived experiences of a marginalized group, (women of color for example,) and how to know when your own life experience is too limited or privileged to be relied on as generalizable data. This entails discussing different measurements of scale in our research methods, the ways that privilege is intentionally invisibilized, and how concepts of normalization are socially constructed.

I ground these discussions in methodological research and clarify what constitutes as acceptable evidence so students learn how we know what we know in the field rather than just having to take my word on it. Students may come in to my classroom with the false assumption that I want to indoctrinate them to my own political ideology and there isn’t much I as an individual can do about that before they take the course. But I can make sure they leave my classroom knowing how to critically examine their world themselves instead of worrying about what the professor believes in. Which actually fits with my radical anti-authoritarian politics quite nicely.  


AmrahSalomonstarwars.jpg

Amrah Salomón J.

Graduate Teaching Consultant, University of California San Diego Teaching + Learning Commons

Amrah Salomon J. is a writer, artist, activist, and educator of Mexican, Native American (Akimel O’odham and Tohono O'odham, descendant), and European ancestry. Amrah is a PhD candidate in Ethnic Studies at University of California San Diego, a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, and a former Critical Ethnic Studies Association board member. She teaches at San Diego State University and University of San Diego. Amrah is a co-founder of Rez Beats and her work has been published in both academic and literary publications in the United States and in Mexico. She also works as an anti-oppression, transformative justice, and community organizing consultant.

Complicity Talk for Teaching/Writing about Palestine in North American Academia

I begin this short essay by clearly stating at the outset that I am against the colonial occupation of Palestine, and I firmly stand in solidarity with Palestinians fighting for their freedoms, sovereignty, life, and the right to return home. I am in complete solidarity with all kinds of movements by Palestinians and allies such as the increasingly strengthening global boycott, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) movement. I am writing this essay with the hope that those of us who understand ourselves to be in solidarity will sit with the questions I am asking, and think about how we approach Palestine in academia. What are the ethics of writing about Palestine for non-Palestinian academics in North America? There is, I believe, a difference between ethically, intellectually, politically, and spiritually supporting the freedoms of a people versus teaching courses and writing about their occupation and the violence against them for publications, conference presentations, and tenure in the academy. I believe that the latter, this ‘doing’ of Palestine in academia has the potential to become just a fashion statement amongst progressive scholars, those of us who write and teach about issues of social justice. This is not to take away from critical scholarship and other intellectual and political work happening by allies in academia, but we have to keep asking important and difficult questions of ourselves so that we do not become too comfortable in our work. We have to keep asking how for us non-Palestinians, Palestine has the potential to become a fashionable site of solidarity when it is uttered as declarations at conferences, and written about using certain kinds of new/in-style frameworks? What are our ethics of care for actual Palestinian scholars and students struggling against the pre-dominantly Zionist, white supremacist North American academia?

There are two things I would like to state before I go further into my reflections. Firstly, I need to clearly state that I have deep respect for Indigenous scholars/activists from North America who have visited Palestine, who have invested in forming relations of solidarity and friendship with Palestinians. White settler colonialism in Palestine and the US and Canada for example, are intimately inter/connected. There is a genuine need to expose and challenge the technologies of power through which these white settler states operate under neoliberalism. I have deep respect for Black and Palestinian academics and activists in various diasporas who are making connections between their varied but often interconnected liberation struggles against state violence. I have learned so much from exchanges between other occupied people such as Kashmiri people who support Palestinian freedoms and right to return, and vice versa. Or the relations of solidarity offered by South Africans, who fought against the crime of apartheid, to Palestinians. I also deeply respect campus activism work from Canada, the US, Mexico, Senegal, and France to several other places around the world. In writing these critiques, I do not mean to erase these historicized, beautiful, brave, relational, and futuristic acts of solidarity among variously colonized and racialized people(s) that do exist in academia, always under conditions of constant surveillance, threat, and other risks such as of losing one’s employment accompanied by other challenges at continuing to survive.[i]

Secondly, I humbly request the reader not to consider my ethico-political stance here as a patronizing or instructional one for Palestinians or any other occupied people. Living with the quotidian experiences of terror, Palestinian people have graciously accepted various kinds of solidarities from different(ly) colonized, racialized, and white people who have expressed an interest in their struggles for land, life, and dignity. Anti-occupation work, the mere survival, requires several different techniques, compromises, negotiations, and strategies. I am not presuming to explain what genuine solidarity should look like, or whose solidarity should be accepted. Instead, my focus is on questions of complicity, accountability and thinking through the difficult question of what are the things that many of us must keep attending to for us to consider ourselves to be in solidarity with Palestinian people. This article is addressed to white people and non-Black, non-Indigenous people of color here.

As I said before, the question of complicity and accountability are driving my reflections and critiques here. It comes from things I have witnessed and thought through. For instance, at a very popular annual national women’s conference in North America one year, I attended a panel on Palestine organized by South Asians with no Palestinians at the table. As a Pakistani Muslim scholar, I notice that sometimes we South Asians write about Palestine, teach about Palestine without thinking through other interconnections.  My argument isn’t that only Palestinians should write about Palestine. I am not making that kind of a simplistic argument. But what I want us to think through is how Palestine is sensationalized, and takes primacy over and at the expense of attending to other occupations that are in ‘our’ proverbial backyards so to say.  

For example, several Indian Hindu savarna (upper-caste), and mostly Brahmin, scholars who are dominant in North American academia (in terms of number and also tenure-track/tenured positions) who are seen under the category of “South Asian,” or racialized people regularly declare solidarity with Palestinian people.[ii] They write articles, edit books on the conditions of Palestinians, attend rallies to chant “Free, free Palestine”.  However, and I do not state this as true for all, but many do not want to talk about the Indian occupation of Kashmir.[iii] They do not want to talk about how they have and continue to actively benefit from that violent and vindictive occupation done in their name, by them, and their government. Even when they talk about this occupation, there is a tendency to beat around the bush. The occupation becomes a matter of “administration” rather, and the word colonialism is never uttered. Or, it’s a “damage-centered” narrative about the poor condition and trauma of Kashmiris where the structure of Indian occupation and their own active investments in that colonialism are erased, or decentered. Equally importantly, the talk becomes de-casted.[iv] Just like we cannot discuss Israeli occupation of Palestine without discussing white supremacy and U.S. Empire, our analysis of Kashmir’s occupation remains partial, even misguided without paying attention to caste. As several Kashmiri Muslim feminist scholars, for example, have regularly pointed out, the occupation of Kashmir is a Brahminical occupation and caste cannot be untangled from the ways in which this occupation is upheld by the Indian state, its military, and its ordinary citizens.

A telling example of this is the widely-read, respected, and circulated Indian political theorist and historian, Partha Chatterjee. In his essay titled, “Why I support the boycott of Israeli institutions,” Chatterjee explains that he does not visit Israel because “the thought of applying for a visa at an Israeli embassy, passing through Israeli immigration and, who knows, answering questions at check points and barriers put me off”. For these same reasons, he claims, he also does not accept invitations to visit Palestine. Then, wanting to not be accused of “double standards,” that is, of not wanting to be accused of critiquing Israel’s coloniality but not that of India’s, he notes that he “does see the signs of colonial superiority in the country of which I am a citizen”. He means India. Superiority is not the same as saying that he does see and acknowledge Indian occupation everywhere. His own pusillanimity, complacency, and complicity are very much revealed in the very next sentence where he writes: “I have visited every state of India except two – Kashmir and Tripura” (emphasis added). These are spaces occupied by India. Since I am focused here on Kashmir, let me say this clearly: Kashmir is not a state of India. It is occupied and remains the most militarized zone in the world where since 1990, at least 70,000 people have been killed, but also where occupied people have never stopped fighting for their freedom from the tyrannical Brahminical colonial Indian occupation and Pakistan’s manipulative support and complicity.

In her stunning, powerful and generously teachable moment response to Chatterjee, Kashmiri Muslim feminist scholar living in exile, Huma Dar, writes:

You [Chatterjee] write unproblematically of Kashmir and Tripura as the only two “states” of India you have not visited. Please let me point out that to call Kashmir, Tripura, and many other areas like Assam, Manipur, Nagaland et al as “states of India” is as uninformed at best and discursively as violent at worst as calling Israel the sole democracy in “Middle East” and denying the nakba while ignoring the ongoing Occupation of Palestine.

 As Dar further points out, Chatterjee would not be perceived as “just another ‘Indian’” on the streets of Kashmir as he writes. In fact, for Dar and for other occupied Kashmiri Muslims, he is a “privileged, male, rights-bearing citizen of ‘Brahminical colonial India’ — one capable of knowledge production, no less!” Casteism is pervasive in diaspora too. While I cannot go into detail here, please see Equality Lab’s 2018 survey on casteism of South Asians in the US and how those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and Dalit people continue to be marked for eviction from humanity.[v] Whether it is Delhi or Los Angeles or London, it makes no difference in how casteism is experienced by Dalit-Bahujan people.. Brahminical supremacy is a global order, working in tandem with white supremacy in very intersectional and relational ways. Whether it was the case of brown sahibs supporting their white British masters in colonizing India, or the upper caste Hindus supporting Trump today, histories of collaboration between the two are long. For these Hindus, the investment in supporting caste supremacy takes precedence over every other agenda. [vi] As Anu Ramdas, a prolific Dalit theorist writes: 

...there is no Brahmin supremacy in societies that do not have a fully functional caste society. The Brahmin supremacy has territorial limits within the subcontinent. Outside of it, the Brahmin is simply another Brown person. To reclaim his superior status in the diaspora he has to be within South Asian groups at all times. He loses it the moment he is outside such Indian/SAsian groups or the occasional whites fascinated with the Browns...He is faced with the improbable task of institutionalizing caste as a global order for Brahmin supremacy to be given a chance outside of India’s borders.

Brahmins know that upholding and supporting the violence of white supremacy and working in tandem with the agenda of the white settler plantation state consolidates their caste supremacy in diaspora. The Brahmin Ramdas discusses might be just another brown person here, but he won’t let go of that fact that he remains Brahmin even in that ordinariness. He will speak out against racism here and there, roll his eyes at white people Orientalizing an object or practice he sees as Hindu, but won’t let go of his janeu (‘sacred thread’), endogamy for maintaining caste purity, and every other violent belief maintaining his caste supremacy in diaspora.

Thinking/Writing/Teaching about Kashmir for people like me then requires a constant questioning of one’s religious, caste, citizenship, and other privileges. For us South Asians, it requires paying attention to how caste hierarchies and white supremacy work relationally. So what does it mean to de-caste yourself, to unsee, and passionately erase the many occupations and their attendant casteist, anti-Muslim, anti-Indigenous-people violences thriving under India and declare that we stand in solidarity with Palestine? I particularly ask  Brahmin and savarna Hindu academics in North America: Can you do the work of talking about your caste supremacy, the occupations you actively uphold? Can you ask yourself, your families, your government about its viciously anti-Muslim, Brahminical and Hindutva agenda and the arms and soldier training exchanges between India and Israel? How might you unintentionally be supporting Israel by refusing to ethically engage with Indian occupation of Kashmir? By unseeing your complicity?

Since I am thinking about questions of complicity in talking about Palestine and Kashmir, I cannot end without also demanding accountability from myself and other Pakistani academics at home and in diaspora. There are certain ways in which we have been socialized to see the world (through formal and informal education); we need to attend to the ways in which we have oriented ourselves to our multitude of Others. In order to account for my complicity, I need to think about conversations I have commonly participated in or at least, witnessed. I have too often heard very zealous comments made about the fortitude of Pakistani military by Pakistanis in diaspora. I myself grew up singing a very popular nationalistic song, “Dil, dil Pakistan” (literal trans: Heart, heart Pakistan, obviously meaning that Pakistan is my heart) with a reverence for the flag, the army, the rugged land, and frequent (Urdu) utterances of “Insha’Allah Kashmir humara hoga” (trans: God Willing, Kashmir will be ours). Laying siege to Kashmir in our hearts, desires, and prayers (only matched in intensity by the nation’s prayers for victory in Cricket matches) is such an ordinary feeling. But besides that, what is also very obvious is our reverence for the army and the often unanimous acceptance that everything it does is for our safety from India and ironically, from Islamists too. For example, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in northwestern Pakistan is ravaged by the violence of colonial-era frontier rules, Islamic militants created and supported by the CIA, now wanted by the FBI, the abuses of Pakistani military, and over a decade of drone strikes carried out by the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of dead and displaced people. Yet, Pakistani military’s operations, and support for the U.S. drones are welcomed as necessary acts of violence for weeding out “those militants,” the poisonous others of us so-called liberal, progressive, secular Pakistanis. We do not want to think about them as Pakistani civilians. We love Malala Yousafzai, buy our children books on her, watch her documentary, but do we utter the name of Nabila Rehman? Do we talk to our children about her, or think about the hundreds of other people charred by these drone strikes in Pakistan? 

So many of us actively refuse to see how Pakistan is also an occupier.[vii]  I want to briefly pause here to say that talking about my complicity as a Pakistani woman is difficult because of the rampant anti-Muslimness amongst white people, and amongst Brahmin and other savarna scholars in North American academia. I know how quickly they latch onto our critiques of Pakistan in the diaspora to claim that “we are all equally terrible,” so that asking for accountability for the pervasive anti-Muslim violence in India, for example, becomes that much more difficult. Few years ago, a Brahmin friend had asked me, “What about Hindus in Pakistan?” It is an important question, but was asked to shut down my talk about lynching of Dalit Bahujan Muslims in India.

But I am going to take that risk here and address other Pakistani Muslims and those willing to have an honest conversation: Why do we not actively think about the occupation in Balochistan, for example?  We want to “Free, free people of Gaza,” and yet occupations like those of Balochistan and Waziristan often matter little to us. The drone strikes are seen as collateral damage. We wear the kaffiyeh, pride ourselves on how well we can speak Arabic, we will cross the checkpoints to go meet Palestinian families but we will not support resistance movements of people occupied in our name, by us, and by our government and military. From Karachi to Toronto, I will march for freedoms of Palestinians but will hesitate to even post about the then-72 year old Mama Qadeer’s more than 2000 km long historic march on foot from Quetta to Islamabad in 2014 to bring attention to government enforced disappearances in Balochistan. I don’t know who Zar Jan, Seema Baloch, Zarina Baloch, Lateef Johar and so many other Baloch heroes fighting (for life) everyday are. I don’t know about their hunger strikes, their resistance strategies, the movements they lead. And these are just some of the very basic, glaring examples of a long series of powerful, more visual acts of solidarity which I have unseen, and actively erased. What are my investments in upholding Pakistan as a strong post-colonial Muslim state rather than acknowledging that it is indeed a casteist, anti-Black, powerful Sunni, militarized state in bed with Saudi Arabia and the U.S.? I am continuing to think through that question. That is my work.  

I need to read more, engage with occupied and marginalized peoples whose lives are made unliveable because of my life. I cannot make hearts around the “Free, free Palestine” posts on social media, because I really need to think about my own complicity. I need to learn and teach about those first. I cannot get to talk about freeing Gaza without prioritizing freedom of Kashmir and territories occupied by Pakistan and ravaged by the U.S. This is not some idealistic, liberal talk. The weapons which Israel tests on Palestinians are tested by the U.S. in FATA. If I am for the freedom of Palestinians, I cannot ignore these loud interconnections of violences. So how can my solidarity work not take into account these very material connections?

As a side note, I would like to address white people doing solidarity work for Palestine and occupations here. I have been told on more than one occasion that Kashmir is a “brown people problem”. I wish it wasn’t stated that cruelly and crudely and yet it was. When the killers are the same skin color as those being killed, white Westerners might feel like it’s an “internal” issue, that it’s a matter at home for us to sort out amongst ourselves. But please know this: These occupations I have been talking about are not internal issues; rather they are international matters, needing urgent attention of the rest of the world. Even at a basic level, educate yourself about the fractures in these overly simplified categories of “South Asian” and “people of color”. You should slow down, and carefully study the politics of academics you are supporting by inviting them to contribute articles and give talks. This is not because Black and brown people need your blessings. But the structural truth on the ground is that white academics are often powerful actors.  So it is your everyday responsibility to fight the Orientalist, racist, often very anti-Muslim frameworks, and pay attention to what the occupied people themselves are saying.

I began this article, and focused quite a bit, on Palestine. I began with asking a question about the ethics of talking about Palestine in academia. But Palestine is an important archetype, an important site for my critiques and reflections. As my discussions above clearly show, I am critical of all ‘objects’ (by which I mean spaces, events, and structures) which have or can become a site for performing unhelpful (if not harmful) radicality for academics.  I am critical of Brahmin scholars who write about caste without making their positionality and intentions clear, without carefully and ethically centering Dalit-Bahujan theorists in non-fetishizing ways; I am suspicious of several kinds of works on Kashmir by savarna scholars that do not begin with their own dinner table conversations and calling Indian occupation by its name; I am invested in thinking about how I talk about white settler colonialism and anti-Blackness to perform my radical politics, without thinking about all the violences done in my name to so many of my Others in Pakistan. Whether it’s Palestine, or Kashmir, or Balochistan, or caste-talk, all of these can become sites for counter-productive work if we stop asking these important questions about complicity. Some Palestinian colleagues recently told me that global attention to Palestine’s occupation, according to their observation, has probably waned over last few years. This, I believe, at least for us on the Left is because of how we might have framed our question(s) about solidarity work. Therefore, I am asking from all of us a commitment to politics based on self-critique grounded in ongoing reflections and asking hard questions of ourselves. If we did that work, all of us non-Palestinian, non-Black, non-Indigenous people in North American academia, we all will be able to concretely trace where out complicity might be in the structures of violence which keep Palestinians as occupied people.

Even as I am teaching my graduate course on complicating the local and global politics of solidarity work, I tell my students that I remain uncertain about what being in solidarity means. There are so many questions about the philosophies and politics of solidarity that remain unclear to me. But I strongly believe that we need to constantly attend to the ethics of doing solidarity work as academics, and that is what motivated this post. I am not saying don’t teach about Palestine. We must stand in solidarity with Palestinians. I plan to approach the occupation of Palestine through talking to my students about Kashmir, Waziristan, Balochistan and other occupations including the ones here in the U.S., of course. And I will also continue to watch myself.

As I grow older, as I begin to get a better sense of how certain ideas circulate in the public sphere, and the more I believe in the importance of keeping these critiques alive. Repeating, restating, reframing our arguments is important intellectual and political work. And, sometimes, it is the very mundane that is actually profound.


[i] I am particularly focused on Palestinian academics here. I am thinking of more widely circulated cases of Dr. Steven Salaita and Dr. Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi here, for instance. Being evicted/expelled from academia as in the case of Dr. Salaita, and the constant terror directed at Dr. Abdulhandi are stories that have been widely circulated amongst the pro-Palestinian groups. However, I am also thinking about the many Palestinian scholar colleagues and friends who feel the terror of working in the Zionist academia here every day. I am also thinking about Palestinian students who are targeted in various ways on and off campus.

[ii] These are not mutually exclusive categories. For example, Muslims can be Dalit or upper-caste. I also use Pakistani as a national identity but without wanting to erase religious, caste, ethnic, sectarian and other differences. Not all people who are considered Pakistanis by the census or the government see themselves as Pakistanis. Like all modern nation-states, diversity is mobilized only to support the narrative of “we are united and for our country” but these are dangerous lies that stand over bodies and lands of occupied, dispossessed, dead, and marginalized people(s). I write here as a Pakistani woman whose parents came to Pakistan from Chittagong and Dhaka as refugees with their families in 1971. I do not wish to erase the violent acts committed by the Pakistani military against people now known as Bangladeshis. But I call myself Pakistani to be able to account for my complicity in ongoing occupations by the country I was born in.

[iii] In writing this, I want to clarify to the reader that I am not saying none of these Hindu savarna academics ethically think through questions of accountability, or that their work on solidarity hasn’t been important. But, here I am discussing the structural. Brahminical supremacy is a structure just like white supremacy. People of color can also participate in white supremacy, and so, non-Brahmins too participate in upholding Brahminical supremacy. These are the structures we uphold, work within, and continue to challenge. Clarifying this hopefully will deter questions about, “what about xyz Brahmin scholar who writes about Kashmir too?” If critiquing white supremacy is not about criticizing all white people, then neither is my argument about all Brahmin or all other savarna scholars.

[iv] I want to quickly point out that I understand that in some cases, Kashmiri Muslim feminists in diaspora have also used the word Indian “administered” rather than occupied for Kashmir. However, I find it disingenuous for Indian savarna and Brahmin scholars to do the same.

[v] If you would like more familiarity with learning about what caste is and how it operates in North America, please see Equality Lab’s, a South Asian organization in the US, 2018 report on casteism in the US: https://www.equalitylabs.org/caste-survey-2018

[vi] As an example, as one of the few amongst many, please see Dalit activist-theorist, Thenmozhi Soundarajan’s article on South Asians supporting Trump: https://rewire.news/article/2018/02/14/south-asian-immigrants-offering-pay-trumps-wall/

[vii] In making the statement that Pakistan is also an occupying state in today’s context, there are other histories such as that of 1971 which I have in mind but I can’t explore those here.


Shaista Patel works as an Assistant Professor of Critical Muslim Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Trained to be an interdisciplinary scholar, her primary research questions are in conversation with theories of critical Muslim, transnational, critical Indigenous, Black feminist, and anti-caste literature.

Do Not ‘Decolonize' . . . If You Are Not Decolonizing: Progressive Language and Planning Beyond a Hollow Academic Rebranding

I write this from Aotearoa New Zealand, an immigrant in this country as I was in the United States for the 15 years prior. The way I see it, I am an immigrant from post-colonial India to two settler colonial states. In addition to my identity as an immigrant cis-South-Asian woman, I also identify as an academic. I often think of myself as an accidental academic. Academia was a space that offered me refuge as an immigrant, but it also allowed me to do the thinking, critical, questioning work I needed to do – but in a safe space. I started graduate studies in the post-9/11 world. As you can imagine, academia served as a particular refuge in that particular historic moment.

I have been in academia, either in training or teaching since…well, since I was seventeen. I have learned, trained, researched, and taught in four continents – my post-doc was in Geneva (even though most of that post-doc time was spend doing research in India). There are a lot of things I do not know, but there are some things I do know – one of them happens to be the intricate workings of academia – its peoples, its egos, its structures, the spaces of suppression, subversion, and subtle resistance. Within this space I see the hard work of resistance from individuals and groups, but also the dogged structural underpinnings of academia. Between the individual struggles and systematic dogma, is the troubling paradigm where academic structures and powers co-opt the struggles as their own – but contribute little to the cause. Over the years, I have seen academia do this co-optation and rebrand itself but not genuinely willing to do the hard work required to imagine a better academia. I have learned to navigate academia, but continually remembering to view this space critically.

This blog post, written as I transition into a tenured position at the interdisciplinary Centre for Science in Society at Victoria University of Wellington, is my attempt to remember to keep thinking and engaging critically. I have been precariously employed and over the past few years, I have seen what precarity does to one’s sense of self and relationship to others. I hope I never forget that feeling as it has been one of the most intellectually exhausting, but also critically generative space. It was in this space of academic precarity as an immigrant living and working on indigenous land, that I have seen the interesting mobilizing of the word ‘decolonizing.’ I have started to see the complexity inherent in how decolonizing has been co-opted from a vibrant and critical engagement to an academic buzzword. This was recently bought home to me when I saw a student wearing a rather colourful t-shirt with a ‘Decolonize the …” typed in boldface in the front.

While it was unclear to me what they wanted to decolonize, I was troubled by the text on the shirt, not because of my dislike of buzzwords (I’ve used them before) or because of the student wearing it, but rather it was just at the end of a long line of hollow ‘decolonizing’ moves I had witnessed – online and offline. Within the academy, I have seen the sloppy attempts to ‘decolonize’ a syllabus or a programme without any real structural changes – in the programme, the class, the faculty, or the university. This is NOT decolonizing the syllabus, or the programme, or the university. To take on decolonizing work without having ever engaged with the long tradition of scholars who have written on decolonizing – is sloppy and opportunistic. Especially sloppy if you have not read the seminal Tuck and Yang article which asks you to not use decolonizing as a metaphor.

In my avowed attempt to stay critically focused, I thus hold my fellow academics to account and ask for some refrain when using the word ‘Decolonizing.’ It does a disservice to the amazing indigenous scholarship and activist work that is targeting power structures to shake and reshape them to accommodate indigeneity. So, my humble suggestion, till you are actually willing and able to do the work of decolonizing the structures you (and even me) benefit from currently, let us think of better words to do what we are actually doing.

This does not give us/you a pass to not attempt to decolonize academia, but rather start planning the ways in which to do it and putting into place plans (hiring indigenous faculty on permanent positions, provide scholarships to indigenous students, accommodate teaching/learning structures to different knowledge production sites and ways, etc.) starting now. But at this exact moment, when enjoying the privileges afforded by academia on indigenous land, and when we actively working or are unable to work towards decolonizing work, we need to acknowledge that reality.  

LANGUAGE FOR A PROGRESSIVE ACADEMIA – WORDS BEYOND ‘DECOLONIZING’

To that end, here are some alternative suggestions to talk about the work we are doing now, while thinking of a decolonized sovereign nation future. To really keep it simple, I even suggest words start with the letter D [1].

  • Diversify your syllabus and curriculum

  • Digress from the cannon

  • Decentre knowledge and knowledge production

  • Devalue hierarchies

  • Disinvest from citational power structures

  • Diminish some voices and opinions in meetings, while magnifying others

All of this allows for anti-colonial, post-colonial, and de-colonial work in the academy; but not make claims to a ‘decolonized programme,’ ‘decolonized syllabus,’ or a ‘decolonized university.’ It allows you to be honest – about who you/we are and how you/we are situated within certain privileges.

This means starting the work that actual decolonizing requires – but those are long term goals and require YOU/ME to do a LOT of work. They also require becoming accomplices (not an ally or spectator) in local indigenous communities and politics as the fight for land and resources continues. There are concrete plans that can be put in place and how to get there (i.e. genuinely support decolonization) in a five-to ten-year period. Do not give up on the vision…just remember, academia is not there yet.

PROPOSED WAYS TO DECOLONIZED ACADEMIA - START PLANNING NOW

Just in case you were wondering, what will the decolonizing future facing project look like and what you can actually do enable it? This requires work and planning (starting now), rather than taking that energy and excitement (around decolonization) to just rebrand yourself and your site of knowledge production and praxis.

There are amazing scholars who can teach us all about the ways we can do this planning work. I share their wisdom humbly and with the hope that it allows the start of a conversation about the future of the academic space you/we inhabit.

  • Hire faculty from indigenous and marginalized communities so they can magnify the voices and concerns of their communities. Change your hiring criteria (and your hiring committees), if needed, to meet this goal.

  • Hire said faculty on permanent positions – not on precariously created contracts. To bring on a junior faculty for a year or two position (while dangling the possibility of a permanent position someday) means they are on the longest interview ever!  

  • Hire faculty that actually challenge you – and listen to them (they are more than your token hire).

  • Be willing to be inter/multi/anti disciplinary – look beyond your cannon.

  • Design classes that have a ‘?’ at the end of the title. Example: Decolonizing Geography?: How, When, and by Whom? Or Decolonizing Knowledge?: (re)Imagining the Future in Sociology.

  • Do not expect your precariously hired POC/BAME/Indigenous/queer/junior faculty to do the diversity work (or, ahem, as you call it ‘decolonizing’ work for you to take credit on – we do it in our scholarship, research, teaching, thinking, talking, listening, and being in the university and we need to be rewarded for it directly).  

  • Create syllabus and curriculums that are innovative – there are more ways to assess work than the research essay, but do not use this as a short cut to not help marginalized students with academic work.

  • Make space for indigenous and marginalized students – both physical and intellectual.

Then there is the slightly more complex thing to do simultaneously, as a way to create space for indigenous and marginalized students:

Take the extra time with these students to help them/us [2] learn to read and write like ‘power.’ Teach us ways to operate in this oppressive world. Do not assume we cannot write as well as you, thus you should not put in the time or effort.

BUT

Also take the extra time to learn how we think, read, and write. Learn from us the ways we see and seek to change this oppressive world. Respect our refusal to write like you, even after you train us well to write like you.

These are not really radical suggestions. If you are one of these lovely people trying to decolonize your space, you already know this. But this is just a good reminder to myself as I move out of my precarious space and into a tenured position that decolonizing is not a metaphor!

While there are many examples of amazing scholarship that challenges colonial structures underpinning academia, I offer one example of a dear colleague doing this work every day. She offers a wonderful course that does this heavy, preliminary work of encouraging students to think of a better academia (better anthropology in particular). Lorena Gibson’s paper titled, Anthropology for Liberation is an honest and humble attempt to think about a future of a discipline without making grand claims to have decolonized the discipline or academia. Like she says, this is the first step in a long journey that she has to walk alongside other scholars, students, and communities.

Through her work (amongst others) it is clear to see that decolonizing is real work which needs to have real world structural consequences – not hypotheticals. It should not be a buzzword to increase your ‘woke’ student enrollments. Do not deploy it in service of the structures it was created to destroy.

It is my obligation as an immigrant living, working, researching, and teaching on indigenous land to respect and remember the history – and act as an accomplice to the local communities, particularity when it means unsettling my own academic privilege and identity. Together, it is our obligation as academics to make plans for a decolonized academia, to take care our students, and hold people to account who use this amazingly powerful word recklessly for their own self-interest. This is important to recognize and curtail, so we can start the very hard work of imagining and planning a decolonised academia – rather than just rebranding the current space and carrying on business as usual.


[1] Trained in cultural studies, I have consciously chosen to refrain from using ‘deconstruct.’ Not enough time in this short blog post to engage with that particular postmodern anxiety.

[2] I consciously use ‘us’ here as when talking about this focus on students, as I speak from my experiences as an immigrant student in the American academy…and what wonderful advisers I had who took the extra time with my writing and work (Thank you – Hugh Gusterson, Roger Lancaster, Rashmi Sadana, and Tim Gibson).


Nayantara S Appleton - Work Pic.jpg

Nayantara Sheoran Appleton

Nayantara Sheoran Appleton is a Senior Lecturer at the interdisciplinary Centre for Science in Society, Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Trained as a medical anthropologist (with a PhD in cultural studies) she is interested in Feminist Medical Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies (STS); Cultural Studies and Media; Science Communication; Reproductive and Contraceptive Justice; Critical Kinship; Ethics and Governance; Regenerative Medicine; and Ethnographic Research. She has done research on hormonal contraceptives, stem cell and having recently moved to Aotearoa New Zealand, she is now starting to conceptualize a project that explores relationship between immigrant and indigenous communities – both within and beyond the medical space.

SYLLABUS: ELIZABETH WARREN, CHEROKEE CITIZENSHIP, AND DNA TESTING


Introduction

The goal of this syllabus is to frame the recent claims to Cherokee ancestry by US Senator Elizabeth Warren as part of a longer history of cultural appropriation, erasure, and settler colonialism. Warren’s claims reveal the pervasive influence of biological essentialism--through the supposed certainty of DNA testing--in the globalized present. As is documented in this syllabus, the juncture of culture, genetics, and Indigenous sovereignty has become a crucial domain of discursive and political contestation. At stake is the ability of sovereign Indigenous nations to determine citizenship and belonging according to their own cultural beliefs and historical understandings of community. In compiling this syllabus, we underscore the work of Indigenous writers, scholars, and activists, and we have focused primarily on the historical position of the Cherokee Nation in these debates. We hope that this syllabus can serve as a practical guide, but also to alleviate some of the emotional and intellectual labor that we, as Indigenous peoples, are often forced to produce in such a moment as this. In the days after Warren released her DNA test results the demand from the media was such that scholar Kim Tallbear was forced to create a press release detailing the points she has made exhaustively since her writing on Native DNA began over a decade ago. Others of us fielded dozens of interviews with reporters, and were forced to spell out the basics of Indigenous identity and sovereignty over and over. It is our hope that this syllabus can be a tool for deeper understanding, but also a first stop for those who know little about Cherokee history, identity, and DNA. Thus, rather than having to explain one more time, we hope you can say: take a look at this syllabus and then we’ll talk.


Preface

In October 2018, US Senator Elizabeth Warren released the results of a DNA test in an effort to prove her claims to Native American ancestry. Far from resolving the question of her supposed Cherokee and Delaware heritage, her actions distracted from urgent issues facing Indigenous communities and undermined Indigenous sovereignty by equating “biology” with culture, “race” with citizenship. In response, Indigenous scholars, activists, and the Cherokee Nation itself, rebuked the dangerous connection between DNA testing and Indigeneity.

The syllabus project aims to contextualize the history of colonialism erasing and assimilating Indigenous populations through the regulation of blood--found in the contemporary iteration of DNA testing. It collects some of the responses from Indian Country in the wake of Warren’s misguided political gamble, and fills in historical gaps with important scholarship about Cherokee citizenship, blood quantum, DNA and genetic testing, and tribal sovereignty.

The following texts have been compiled by three citizens of the Cherokee Nation, Adrienne Keene (@nativeapprops), Rebecca Nagle (@rebeccanagle), and Joseph M. Pierce (@pepepierce).

Key Words

DNA and Genetic Testing

Indigenous Citizenship

Cherokee History

Erasure

Cultural Appropriation

Blood

Tribal Sovereignty

Readings by Theme and Topic

DNA and Genetic Testing

Gupta, Prachi. “‘Our Vote Matters Very Little’: Kim TallBear on Elizabeth Warren's  Attempt to Claim Native
American Heritage”. Jezebel. October 16, 2018.
https://theslot.jezebel.com/our-vote-matters-very-little-kim-tallbear-on-elizabeth-1829783321

TallBear, Kim. 2013. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/native-american-dna 

Tsosie, Krystal. “Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Is Not Her Identity”. The Atlantic. October  17, 2018.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/what-make-elizabeth-warrens-dna-test/573205/ 

Tsosie, Krystal and Matthew Anderson. “Two Native Americans geneticists interpret 
Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test”. The Conversation. October 22, 2018.
https://theconversation.com/two-native-american-geneticists-interpret-elizabeth-warrens-dna-test-105274

Early responses from Indian Country to Warren

Franke-Ruta, Garance. “Is Elizabeth Warren Native American or What?”. The Atlantic. May 20, 2012.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/is-elizabeth-warren-native-american-or-what/257415/

Nagle, Rebecca. “I am a Cherokee Woman. Elizabeth Warren is Not”. ThinkProgress. November 30, 2017.
https://thinkprogress.org/elizabeth-warren-is-not-cherokee-c1ec6c91b696/

Indian Country's response to Warren's DNA test

Blake, Aaron. “Why the Cherokee Nation’s Rebuke of Elizabeth Warren Matters”. The
Washington Post
. October 16, 2018.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/16/why-cherokee-nations-rebuke-elizabeth-warren-matters/?utm_term=.f16f0a23d75a

Brewer, Graham. “Warren’s DNA Test Perpetuates Stereotypes, Native Communities
Say” WNYC The Takeaway. October 16, 2018.
https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/warrens-dna-test-perpetuates-stereotypes-native-communities-say

Cherokee Nation. “Cherokee Nation responds to Senator Warren’s DNA test”. October 15, 2018.
http://webtest2.cherokee.org/News/Stories/Archive_2018/20181015_Cherokee-Nation-responds-to-Senator-Warrens-DNA-test

Echo Hawk, Crystal. “Changing Elizabeth Warren's story to one about Native America”.
Indian Country Today. October 18, 2018.
https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/opinion/changing-elizabeth-warren-s-story-to-one-about-native-america-pG7k5kLvkkKfeb023EFhqA/

Estes, Nick. “Native American Sovereignty Is Under Attack. Here’s How Elizabeth
Warren’s DNA Test Hurt Our Struggle.” The Intercept. October 19, 2018.
https://theintercept.com/2018/10/19/elizabeth-warren-dna-native-americans/

Hayes, Kelly and Jacqueline Keeler. “Elizabeth Warren connected DNA and Native
American heritage. Here’s why that's destructive.” NBC News. October 17, 2018.
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/elizabeth-warren-connected-dna-native-american-heritage-here-s-why-ncna921166

Hilleary, Cecily. “Native Americans Speak Out on Elizabeth Warren DNA Controversy”.
Voice of America. October 16, 2018. 
https://www.voanews.com/a/native-americans-speak-out-on-elizabeth-warren-dna-controversy/4615743.html?fbclid=IwAR2WaKcxC3G52su9AncvZTHRj35RY3vAgl4-7tAt8I0xZyCjeixxe77Ae0A

Martin, Nick. “Elizabeth Warren’s Deception”. Splinter. October 16, 2018. 
https://splinternews.com/elizabeth-warrens-deception-1829755302

Moya-Smith,Simone. “I am a Native American. I Have Some Questions for Elizabeth
Warren”. CNN. October 15, 2018.
https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/15/opinions/elizabeth-warren-native-heritage-where-has-she-been-moya-smith/index.html

Nagle, Rebecca. “Elizabeth Warren’s ‘part’ Cherokee claim is a joke, and a racist insult
to Natives like me”. USA Today. October 18, 2018.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2018/10/18/native-american-elizabeth-warren-cherokee-ancestry-column/1668763002/

 NoiseCat, Julian Brave. “Elizabeth Warren Is Not Native American”. Huffington Post.
October 16, 2018.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-elizabeth-warren-native-ancestry_us_5bc5f8d9e4b055bc947a6e13

Reese, Debbie. “A Curated List of Indigenous Responses to Elizabeth Warren.”
American Indians in Children’s Literature. October 20, 2018.
https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2018/10/a-curated-list-of-native-responses-to.html

Cherokee History (Especially regarding Diaspora, Allotment, Adoption, and Identity)

Brown, Kirby. 2018. Stoking the Fire: Nationhood in Cherokee Writing, 1907-1970.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Carter, Kent. 1999. The Dawes Commission and the Allotment of the Five Civilized
Tribes
, 1893-1914. Orem, Utah: Ancestry.com. 

Deboe, Angie. 1940 [1991]. And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized
Tribes
. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Garroutte, Eva Marie. 2003. Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America.
Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jacobs, Margaret D. 2014. A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of
Indigenous Children in the Postwar World
. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Peterson, Dawn. 2017. Indians in the Family: Adoption and the Politics of Antebellum
Expansion
. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Smithers, Gregory D. 2015. The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of
Migration, Resettlement, and Identity
. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Stremlau, Rose. 2011. Sustaining the Cherokee Family: Kinship and the Allotment of an
Indigenous Nation
. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Becoming Indian and Cultural Appropriation

Deloria, Philip J. 1998. Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Farzan, Antonia Noori. “A DNA Test said a man was 4% black. Now he wants to qualify as a minority
business owner.” Washington Post. September 25, 2018.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/09/25/a-dna-test-said-he-was-4-black-now-he-wants-to-qualify-as-a-minority-business-owner/?utm_term=.26e2cc1e883d

Keeler, Jacqueline. “Pocahontas isn’t a name that should offend you”. Yes! Magazine.
December 1, 2017.
https://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/pocahontas-is-not-a-name-that-should-offend-you20171201?fbclid=IwAR06oy_zJX5DmeWHeiGItzOLOeCqSW7oeUo5IRxjNVHuQZo0iOQGHiWJTTM

Pierce, Joseph M. 2017. “Adopted: Trace, Blood, and Native Authenticity”. Critical
Ethnic Studies
. 3:2: 57-76. [.pdf]

 Pringle, Paul and Adam Elmahrek. “House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s family
benefited from U.S. program for minorities based on disputed ancestry”.
Los Angeles Times. October 14, 2018.
https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-na-pol-mccarthy-contracts-20181014-story.html

Scott, Brandon. “Cherokee Nation citizens like me are used to people claiming our
heritage. It’s exhausting”. Vox. October 17, 2018. 
https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/10/17/17985886/elizabeth-warren-claims-native-american-descent

Smithers, Gregory. “Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood?”.
Slate. October 1, 2015.
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2015/10/cherokee-blood-why-do-so-many-americans-believe-they-have-cherokee-ancestry.html

Sturm, Circe. 2011. Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the
Twenty-First Century.
Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press.

Wiles,Tay. “Anti-public lands and anti-Native groups converge in Montana”. High
Country News
. October 19, 2018.
https://www.hcn.org/articles/sagebrush-rebellion-in-whitefish-montana-anti-public-lands-and-anti-native-groups-converge?fbclid=IwAR3o6vIVXA3c3Cu6Foan4aHEOUYqfxtM7q5Vb4n7yA2gvDfAorvpm4jtEuA


COMPILED BY:

Keene headshot.jpg

Adrienne Keene is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. Her research interests include Indigenous students in higher education, Indigenous student activism, and Native representations and cultural appropriation. She is the author of Native Appropriations (nativeappropriations.com), where she blogs about topics of Native representations. 

Nagle headshot.jpg

ᎪᎯᏂ ᏧᏙᎢᏓ. ᏔᎴᏆ ᎦᏁᎳ ᏃᏊ. Joplin ᎤᏛᏒ. ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᏫᏒᏍᎩ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎰ. ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ. ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎦᎴᏴᏔᏅ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎰ ᏍᏊ.

Rebecca Nagle is a writer, advocate and citizen of Cherokee Nation living in Tahlequah. Currently, Nagle does writing by night and language preservation and revitalization for her tribe by day. You can read her views on issues of Native representation and tribal sovereignty in the Washington Post, Teen Vogue, USA Today, The Huffington Post, and more.

Pierce Headshot.jpg

Joseph M. Pierce is Assistant Professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Stony Brook University. His research focuses Latin American literary and cultural studies, Indigenous studies, queer studies, and hemispheric approaches to citizenship and belonging. His book Argentine Intimacies: Queer Kinship in an Age of Splendor, 1890-1910 is forthcoming from SUNY Press. He is co-editor with Fernando A. Blanco and Mario Pecheny of Derechos Sexuales en el Sur: Políticas del amor y escrituras disidentes (2018, Editorial Cuarto Propio). He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.