Big Thinking at Congress 2023
What is needed to live in non-hierarchical relationships that can truly honour our human differences? Can we re-imagine a new set of social relationships grounded in decoloniality, anti-racism, and feminism today for a better tomorrow?
Through dialogue we will draw upon the knowledges, work, and experiences of Joyce Green, Professor Emerita with the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Regina; Gina Starblanket, Associate Professor in Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria; Rinaldo Walcott, Professor and Chair in the Department of Africana and American Studies at the University of Buffalo; and Christina Sharpe, Professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University.
For this Big Thinking lecture, join this interdisciplinary panel of scholars in conversation as they imagine together how to enact the terms under which we might create a radically different world.
[00:00:34] Andrea Davis: I am Andrea Davis, Academic Convenor of Congress 2023. On behalf of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and York University, I’m delighted to welcome you to the first Big Thinking event at the 92nd Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
[00:00:56] The title of the panel today is “Thinking across differences: decolonial, anti-racism and feminist perspectives”
[00:01:06] Today, Joyce Green, Rinaldo Walcott and Gina Starblanket will reflect on the theme, “The terms of change”, drawing on their work in decolonial and anti-racism scholarship, and Indigenous feminisms.
[00:01:24] They will be joined in discussion by moderator and colleague, my colleague Christina Sharpe.
[00:01:31] Today’s event will take place in English and American Sign Language. We have also included French simultaneous interpretation, and closed captioning in English and French. An ASL interpreter and closed captioning will appear on the screen on stage and on the Zoom screen for those of you joining virtually.
[00:01:56] To access simultaneous interpretation, you will need to download the Sennheiser Mobile Connect application on your device, Open the Sennheiser Mobile Connect application on your device and click on the Blue QR Code at the top of the screen. If you’re in the audience and you need translation from English to French, and you need some help, you can raise your hand and we have a few people who can come over and assist you. You’ll need to, like I said, scan the code, there’s one just outside the room, or someone will help you. Select French or your preferred language, and Listen using your own earpiece or I think you can also just put the phone to your ear.
[00:02:43] For those joining us virtually, you can click on the “Closed Captioning” button to enable captions. To use simultaneous interpretation on Zoom, click on the “Interpretation” button and select the language you would like to listen in.
[00:03:02] I begin this afternoon by marking the violent histories of where we are making note of and reminding ourselves of the ongoing conflicts and contradictions for this land and this water in this air. This acknowledgement is particular to Tkaronto, so for those of you joining virtually, please take responsibility to acknowledge the traditional territory you are on and the current treaty holders.
[00:03:31] York University recognizes that many Indigenous Nations have longstanding relationships with the territories upon which York’s campuses are located that precede the establishment of York University. York University acknowledges its presence on the traditional territory of many Indigenous Nations. The area known as Tkaronto has been care taken by the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Huron-Wendat. It is now home to many First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. We acknowledge the current treaty holders, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This territory is subject of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region.
[00:04:23] Tkaronto’s intersecting communities are comprised of those native to this land, Indigenous peoples from other territories, as well as white settlers and those people who have come here by force, or otherwise, as a result of slavery, colonialism, imperialism and ongoing wars. As the descendant of Africans enslaved in the Americas who were taken from their ancestral lands against their will, I am committed to what Tiffany King calls “a notion of mutual care,” and I recognize that a future for Black peoples is not possible without a future for Indigenous peoples by whose leave I live, walk on, and share this land.
[00:05:11] I acknowledge finally that these Americas are built on violence and erasure, and we bring these histories with us when we enter any room, any virtual space, and we must bring them always into view. It is with this knowledge of history, we enter here again this afternoon in the hope of making a different world.
[00:05:37] The Big Thinking series at Congress brings together scholars and public figures and artists to address some of the most pressing questions of our time. For Congress 2023, the series amplifies the theme of Reckonings and Re-imagining with conversation that honour Black and Indigenous knowledges and cultures and centre diverse voices and perspectives.
[00:06:02] You can participate in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #Congressh, which is Congress with an ‘h’ at the end.
[00:06:12] On behalf of the Federation and York University, I thank the series sponsors —the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Universities Canada as well as participating sponsors Sage Publishing for supporting this event.
[00:06:32] Thank you all so much for joining us today. Please welcome Dr. Rhonda McEwen Professor in the Faculty of Information and President and Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University at the University of Toronto who will introduce today's lecture on behalf of the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
[00:07:02] Rhonda McEwen: Thank you so much Dr. Davis. What a beautiful room this is! I'm sitting there reflecting on the last time I was here which is only a few weeks ago. At the new installation of the new Chancellor for York University. But I love this room, it's a really spectacular room.
[00:07:23] I want to say how much of a pleasure it is today to be here on behalf of the Canada Foundation for Innovation to introduce today's Big Thinking Lecture. This CFI has the specific mandate to equip researchers in every discipline with the tool and facilities they need to be at-the-ready to pursue ambitious ideas, to respond to emerging and sometimes urgent social and economic needs when they arise and also to seize opportunities to create meaningful insights and solutions for the Canadian society.
[00:08:02] Congress provides an important forum to discuss the big ideas that help advance our understanding of the involving and complex issues that shape the culturally rich and diverse world that we live in.
[00:08:19] So congratulations to York University for their expert hosting of this key event for Canadian research, and to the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences for organizing yet another superb event.
[00:08:34] This panel perfectly reflects Congress’ theme this year of Reckonings and Re-imaginings, as we explore ways to honour our differences by re-imagining our relationships with one another. Can those relationships be non-hierarchical? Can they be grounded in decolonial thinking, anti-racism and feminism? Asking these questions forces a reckoning with how we live together today and how we have in the past, and also how we can imagine a radically different world for a better tomorrow.
[00:09:19] To quote Arundhati Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
[00:09:32] Today’s Big Thinking Lecture will feature a discussion by an interdisciplinary panel of scholars, including Dr. Joyce Green, who is Professor Emerita with the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Regina. Dr. Green’s work, and many of us are familiar with this work, has dealt with Indigenous state relations and Indigenous feminism, citizenship, identity racism Canada’s political culture, Indigenous human rights, and reconciliation in the settler state context in Canada.
[00:10:09] Most recently, she has turned to research relating to Ktunaxa Nation matters, including its contemporary constitutions, and its cultural and political problematics since colonization.
[00:10:27] Dr. Gina Starblanket is Associate Professor in Indigenous Governance at the University Of Victoria. Doctor Starblanket is the Principal Investigator of the Prairie Indigenous Relationality Network, and her research takes up questions of Indigenous-settler political relations in Canada, the politics of Treaty implementations, Prairie Indigenous life, gender, and Indigenous feminism.
[00:10:57] Dr. Rinaldo Walcott is Professor and Chair - we love technology by the way - Dr. Rinaldo Walcott is Professor and Chair in the Department of Africana and American Studies at the University of Buffalo. I was trying to slow that down, to make it. All right!
[00:11:24] Dr. Walcott, who’s a friend of mine as well, his research focuses on the cultural expression of Black life with an interest in the transnational diasporic and national crosscurrents of Black activities.
[00:11:38] Moderating this discussion will be Dr. Christina Sharpe, Professor and Tier One Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities here at York University. She is also a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the study of Race, Gender, and Class at the University of Johannesburg and the author of many books including her most recent, Ordinary Notes which was just published in April.
[00:12:06] Thank you very much for attending today's discussion. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Green, Dr. Starblanket, Dr. Walcott and Dr. Sharpe to the stage.
[00:12:45] Dr. Joyce Green: I guess I'm up.
[00:12:53] I can't see what I read without my glasses, and I can’t see when I walk if I wear them [Laughter] so, bear with me, this is the way it is now.
[00:13:07] I am so pleased to be here. And thank you for those introductory and powerful remarks. I am so pleased to be here in the company of these incredible colleagues.
[00:13:32] […] So I have told you, in Ktunaxa who I am and where I come from. And I'm going to emphasize for you that when I tell you English, Cree, Scott Half-Breed, I'm all of these things. And so I have a particular perspective on the complexity of identity.
[00:13:56] I cannot speak to envisioning a world of non-hierarchical relationships. I live in a present that is structured by the oppressions of both the past and the present. I live in a political, economic, social and cultural milieu that denies my past and that of others like me in favour of a sanitized history […] white supremacy settler triumphalism.
[00:14:25] The brutal facts of colonization have damaged Indigenous peoples, territories and cultures irreparably in some cases. The assumptions, interests, cosmologies, institutional structures and practices of the settler state have encoded erasures of Indigenous peoples and legitimations of colonization of the state and its privileged populations.
[00:14:53] None of this has changed from first contact to today. So I am not optimistic about those none-hierarchical relationships. Colonization and imperialism generated human rights abuses across the globe, and on Turtle Island.
[00:15:14] These processes must be understood in their connection, in their relationships, and in their impacts on both damage and privilege. I invite you all to situate yourself in those designations.
[00:15:29] The racialization of people that sustains these processes must be comprehended as well. Indigenous people share solidarity with others. Differently positioned but also struggling against trauma and a vile history.
[00:15:48] Together we plan for futures of recovery, remembrance, resurgence and restitution. I will not speak further of reconciliation which is unlikely given the lack of the truth telling, remorse, and restitution that must precede it.
[00:16:06] Thanks to the priorities, the presumption and the practices of the settler state and its corporate class, all of our futures or made questionable by anthropogenic environmental and climate collapse. And by the addiction of our politics and our societies to the matters that fuel the processes that is going to eliminate us and all of our relations.
[00:16:32] That is as a species we are destroying the world. While ignoring the implacable calculus of Mother Nature. Our politicians are too craven, and too implicated to be truth tellers, to invite us to take the medicine necessary for healing these matters.
[00:16:53] Imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism thrive on the decimation of the natural order. The commoditization of lands, waters, creatures of people. The privatization or the state theft of Indigenous lands. Those factors are taken for granted and they are considered beneficial but not to us Indigenous people who are still culturally, physically, and spiritually land-based.
[00:17:20] Even when some sell out by buying into the capitalist relationships at the expense of all of our relations. Do not cut out relational perspectives, privileges, responsibilities, to the natural order and to all its denizens, to the land, to each other, to past and future generations. For Ktunaxa, the principle of ʔa·kxamis q̓api qapsin, “all living things” has always guided our relationships and directed our responsibilities.
[00:17:58] These values are inherent in our stories and in the Ktunaxa language which I'm only learning now. Yet our language is attenuated thanks to genocidal practices. Our stories sometimes die with our elders. We are deprived of our instructions in the form Ktunaxa have always been given them. We seek to restore our cultural purpose our language and our relationships with our territory and all living things.
[00:18:32] We seek good relations with others too, where they will take up the responsibilities. But, you know I don't give out blank checks. Language matters. I did not think this was essential when I was younger. Now as I struggled to learn Ktunaxa, I am gifted with glimpses into the great pedagogical and epistemic power of Ktunaxa teaching.
[00:18:58] I have learned how much I have to learn. It is my birthright of which I have been deprived. Our stories arise from our lands, our physical and metaphysical context. Much of those lands too are unavailable to us now, stolen in the legal alchemy that represents them as crown lands or private property.
[00:19:23] Indeed, in an intolerable irony, The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Ktunaxa versus BC that, while we have the charter right of religious freedom to believe what we want we have no right to claim the territory that is essential for objects of our beliefs in this case the spirit Qat’muk.
[00:19:45] Read it and weep. The supreme stripped Ktunaxa of recognition, of the pre-condition for our sacred beliefs stories and responsibilities to the territory of Qat’muk, the grizzly bear spirit.
[00:20:05] In that case Ktunaxa were opposing the development of year-round ski hill on the Jumbo glacier, located in the sacred territory. But it gets even more ironic than that because the BC government, which of course claims our territory as Crown land, gave Ktunaxa back the responsibility for caretaking the territory but they didn't give us the land back. And of course they can change their minds at any opportunity.
[00:20:28] This is consistent with BC’s approach to Indigenous territories. You might want to consider the ongoing Wet’suwet’en matter, a conflict between traditional caregivers of certain lands, TC energy’s coastal gas length, the clocks and the governments of both BC and Canada. But there are now too many similar ironies for us to laugh at these.
[00:21:01] Land recovery is essential for land-based peoples and cultures. Indigenous resurgence, commitments to being ourselves to regaining our sovereignty and autonomous is a political preoccupation for some of us.
[00:21:18] We do not need to displace all settlers everywhere although there is a need for some limitations. For respectful new relationships and for governance and taxation powers in the hands of Indigenous people. And there is a need for settler political supports for Indigenous survivance, to create a better way to care for our land - all land, water and creatures. It is not a capitalist vision though.
[00:21:50] The process of language recovery particularly when people are dispersed across distances and international borders, as Ktunaxa are, it takes technology, linguistics and teaching capacities, elders engagement, administration, time, talent and money.
[00:22:09] The University should help, and here I make a pitch also to Rhonda, it owes us much given its implication in the exercise of and legitimation of colonialism. This is particularly true in my discipline, political science and in my field Canadian politics.
[00:22:29] Scholars and universities could deploy their privilege in our service through research and fieldwork under our direction, for our purposes. They could, with SSHRC and other funding agencies, prioritize Indigenous knowledge and political research.
[00:22:46] They should take up their responsibilities to us, to all of our students and to the enduring values that the academy is […] is committed to.
[00:23:00] Indigenous people must recreate what we have lost in a contemporary context. We must remember what we can with the help of elders who are still with us. We must fill in the gaps of what we have lost, we must animate the instructions we still have while much is not available to us now.
[00:23:22] We must learn and use our languages and where that too is lost or attenuated we must appropriate English and French as the great Emma LaRocque always says, make them our own, use them authentically as who we are and reframe the scaffolding of stories and histories that tell us who we are and where we have been.
[00:23:46] When I assert this, I do not mean that we will go into the past, but rather that we will take our values and our instructions, what we have left as we invoke our guiding principles and others and set our steps into the path in our perpetual future as who we are in our ancient homelands, in relations to all that has and still lives there and to the land itself.
[00:24:34] Dr. Gina Starblanket: Thank you Joyce. Everyone hear me okay? All right so, thank you Joyce for starting us off, thank you for the warm opening from Andrea, and, as you mentioned we’ve been asked to speak today about what our respective intellectual traditions might have to offer in terms of theorizing the conditions of possibility for change or the terms of change, and my intervention’s gonna focus on how processes of representation and knowledge claims can be significant or limiting in those efforts.
[00:25:10] So I’m going to start with a commonly heard refrain. Throughout the popular literature in the social sciences, the concerns with the creation and governance of Canada, dominant narratives tend to suggest that colonial settlement was negotiated and governed legally and fairly with Indigenous populations. In approaching questions of settlement in the territories claimed by Canada, the British Empire was said to be of a liberal mindset that purported to respect and cultivate universal ideas of human freedom and equality.
[00:25:48] Indigeneity has, since this point, contributed to the maintenance of a series of national mythologies around the ways in which Canada came to be. And as the important work of Dr. Green has demonstrated, these cultural myths work together with partial historical narratives manifesting within Canada's judicial and political institution to consolidate, sustain and extend imperial and colonial interests.
[00:26:13] But these representations are more than just mythologies or false narratives to be resisted as they have enduring social and political implications that influence how we come to understand and engage with questions of identity and subjectivity in the present and how we can conceptualize about the future as well.
[00:26:29] Discursively Black and Indigenous populations are each situated marginally albeit differently relative to the white settler nation. Indigenous People are selectively invoked and so far as we can contribute to Canada’s birth, its identity and its evolving claims to constituting a peaceful reconciling nation.
[00:26:47] Representations of Black people in politics tend to be deployed to legitimate Canada’s identity in different ways by bolstering its claims to equality, diversity and inclusion then and now.
[00:26:58] And too often efforts to engage diverse subjectivities in the academy continue to be overdetermined by western frames and approaches that lead to highly circumscribed understandings of the full range of complexity that exist among us. As the notion of what Indigenous and/or Black people really want or stand for socially and politically continue to be represented all too often relative to whiteness and the settler state.
[00:27:24] Western thought has been blind to the violence is inherent in its own claims to universality, which can eclipse the significance of context, minimize the importance of difference and of diverse political positions and experiences.
[00:27:37] So queries into subjectivity for me, as they relate to Indigenous identity and sort of what our individual and collective political horizons involve, must begin with the recognition that colonial violence has deeply impacted our ability to live freely in relation to creation.
[00:27:58] From here, we see significant impacts upon our own processes of subjectivity, formation, but also in our intersubjective ability and capacity to be in relation to one another. This is something we’ve lost sight of, this capacity and perspective of understanding the self in relation to the world we inhabit. As they become shaped by discursive formations within and outside of the communities which serve legitimatizing or constraining functions.
[00:28:26] So scholars such as Glen Coulthard have problematized how Indigenous political identities and strategies have been influenced by the colonial context and how, in many ways, our attempts to navigate this course of an extractive relations have served to reproduce processes of domination and equality at a structural level but also how they continue to shape our subjectivities in the process.
[00:28:47] Of course it is not just the broader colonial context whose very material sort of instruments, policy instruments, that have been enacted beyond that theft of land and the impacts on our ability to relate to one another across difference. The exercise of state power in Canada has also been deeply racialized and sexist specifically the Indian Act has come to discursively shape regulate and govern how many of us have come to think about Indigenous identity and individual and collective levels.
[00:29:17] Indeed, much of the origin of Indigenous feminist activism in Canada has involved resistance to the historical and ongoing dispossession of thousands of Indigenous women and their offspring through the Indian Act's marriage clause. So Indigenous feminists have critiqued their ways in which processes of state recognition are deeply gendered and anti-relational arguing for anti-violence strategies and a return to more relational modes of being within and between our communities.
[00:29:44] They've also problematized the gendered nature and here I am thinking of the important work for Emma LaRocque who’s challenged the gendered nature of collective articulations of identity particularly when grounded in culturalist terms. Pointing to the ways in which specific practices of cultural identification such as essentialist descriptions of Indigenous women as life givers and keepers of culture can serve a narrowing function by placing parameters around potential ways of being Indigenous in a contemporary context.
[00:30:14] And here I'm also thinking of Eve Tuck’s important work on complex personhood and desire where she urges communities to suspend totalizing categorizations of difference by looking beyond the damage brought by colonialism and towards the notion of desire as a way of understanding our political communities and this is a way that can overcome sort of a flattening or binary or dichotomous representations of identity.
[00:30:42] “Desire”, Tuck says “is an assemblage of experiences, ideas and ideologies both subversive and dominant, which necessarily complicates our understanding of human agency, complicity and resistance.”
[00:30:58] It allows for a look at the whole person rather than having to extract part of a person that might fit within a particular politic, including the many influences, source of knowledge, responsibilities and relations that constitute them. As Tuck writes, “this is what accounts for the multiplicity, complexity and contradiction of desire, how desire reaches for contrasting realities even simultaneously.”
[00:31:24] The question of who we are then, and what we stand for should always be accompanied by the important consideration of what we want our communities to be. That question I think, is a very crucial one it can help map out aspirations and multiple complex political postures and also their potential contradictions.
[00:31:43] Now in talking about undoing an openness and a willingness to sort of lean into desire as a political frame, I'm not advocating here for the blurring and distinctiveness that amounts to a universal politic, as this would work to cleave off the particular qualities of our respective orbits of political thought and possibility.
[00:32:03] Rather, charting out the zones of possibility for Indigenous and Black rationalities, it means more than just mapping out respective compartments of political critique and horizon. It means a willingness, and an openness to deep critical inquiry into her own political identities and orientations around the future.
[00:32:26] For Indigenous people, it means recognizing the importance of our territorial and identitarian nature of our claims and critiques, while also making the space for interrogation of the normativity and exclusions with which Indigeneity land and groundedness can become represented in our works.
[00:32:44] And in this I’m thinking of Billy-Ray Belcourt’s forthcoming work on Queer desire as decolonization where he situates Queer Indigenous theory as a method by which we might enact the imaginative power to destabilize the ontological stability of the present.
[00:32:58] Here Belcourt offers insights into the way that Indigenous Queer scholars are sculpting new discursive territory from which to insist another world is possible. Troubling normative conceptions of gender and normative conceptions of Indigeneity along with the coloniality of those conceptions of the self and the hetero-patriarchy of the social form. He situates a world unmoored from these as a decolonial world.
[00:33:22] “Love”, he reminds us, “is to feel and be pulled by that which we want to come. It can help situate us within a politic of the future that is re-figurative in that it orients us not just towards an abstract future, but it can orient how we act in the present.”
[00:33:44] So by leaning into new approaches and understandings of love kinship and relationality, we might have the potential to move beyond an understanding of our political project. Here I'm speaking for Indigenous People as the reproduction of Indigenous bodies essentialist identity constructions and away from the narrow understandings of groundedness.
[00:34:00] It can allow us to reflect on the various diverse ways we were driven out of the world but also the ways in which we can work together to find new life worlds. So these are just some of the interventions that are working to broaden the spaces the political spaces where Indigeneity can be understood to thrive but also where it can coalesce across difference in ally ship in generative ways.
[00:34:25] And these ways of thinking and being in active defiance of the ontologies that are imposed upon Indigenous people are, in my view, some of the really interesting and potentially most transformative coalitional possibilities. These pathways are allowing us to think about politics in more nuanced fashions, they’re allowing us to reckon with the ways that question involving identity remain very real but also spill past the established categories of form and critique.
[00:34:56] Rigid identitarian categories can pose a real threats to relational modes of political thought as they can reinforce essentialist articulations of who we are rather than who we inspire to be. So desire can point us to an analytic, an ethos, and a politic that we can consciously assume and create space to talk about why we are assuming that position. Now none of these pathways, none these sorts of ideas putting forward or drawing on her straightforward.
[00:35:26] They might intersect, be adjacent overlap, or diverse in significant ways. But this brings to mind Leanne Simpson and Robyn Maynard’s important work in “Rehearsals for Living” where they talk about undertaking relationship building in ways that aren't prefigured by whiteness or in relation to the state. They talk about perhaps we need a new language of relationality here. Their work is oriented towards honouring shared interests in securing Black and Indigenous futures.
[00:35:53] And I think that aim, that sort of horizon again, really prefigures what the mode engagement is. So engaging the interrelated dimensions of Black and Indigenous feminism and freedom, for them does not mean, abandoning localized context and knowledges, but instead they provide a model of engaging Black futurity within Anishinabe epistemologies.
[00:36:18] It’s crucial, I think, in seeking to explore the spaces where we might move relative to one another that we don't merely extract and tag on distinct experiences and knowledge bases to modes of analysis that haven't been informed by these perspectives because that can be also incredibly damaging. We need to understand the complex and diverse nature of our theorization and modes of engagements acknowledging the tools and analytics that our movements have made possible through a contextuality-based relations with place rather then a move to universality.
[00:36:48] And so, just to reiterate, thinking with the terms of change for me begins with a willingness to be self reflexive about our own movements and how we are conceptualizing and representing them so that we do not engage narrow reductive frames and how we understand ourselves in one another. The question of what a respective political stance is, visions and critiques entail, requires us not to just map out their content but also to reflect on how we think about and come to understand and know them.
[00:37:16] It means a willingness to contend with that and put identity including how different subjects within our respective movements are represented and constructed. From here, we’re better situated to reflect on how we might move in relation to one another and to make sense of an action areas of convergence with other social and political actors and collectives.
[00:37:37] So I think as the bodies of work on relational approaches both in Black and Indigenous intellectual traditions become more developed in practice we all have the responsibility to think about the conditions that enable the inhabitants of diverse locales to move from subjects within the relation to active agents. And so, broadly conceptualized the potential ways of working towards change within terms that are truly co-constituted. Thanks.
[00:38:15] Dr. Rinaldo Walcott: Hello. I would like to thank the Congress and especially Dr. Andrea Davis for inviting me into this conversation with my colleagues here. The profound crisis of our moment is a crisis of meaning.
[00:38:31] If you leave here hearing me say one thing today. Please let it be this: even inside the University, the crisis of meaning is most acute. In the post-sixties world, some ideas, desires, practices even had meaning. The meanings were not always settled, but the ideas accounted for something to which at least we could can strive towards.
[00:38:59] In our present moment, or as Stuart Hall would say, is this present conjuncture, old meanings, almost settle meanings are not just under attack but literally being remade in actual time. Florida and Texas are the most spectacular examples of this conjuncture or the […] state on Palestinian liberation.
[00:39:22] The other side of that conjuncture is the induction of not white people as representatives of white supremacist arrangements. As a such representation is transformation and the making of a new world.
[00:39:36] The University remains one of the last few bastions where we can confront this remaking of meaning. But it is not the only one. For those of us who have been subjected by the knowledges produced by and through European […] knowledge creation of which the modern university has been a […].
[00:39:56] We know that the University is the linchpin to modern violences. In the University itself, meaning making has shifted skilfully and seductively to its own remaking of the meaning of what institutional transformations might look like, what freedom dreams can be, and how we might overthrow white supremacy once and for all. Which is to say how we might put an end to the 500+ years of white supremacist rule of the earth.
[00:40:26] Black, Indigenous and others not marked as white, have now been inducted more fully into maintenance, policing and the distribution of the meagre resources allotted to some of us to maintain the edifice and the manifold violences that sutures this society together and of which the university is an essential player.
[00:40:47] To do this the university has also had to apprehend meanings that were almost settled to do the work of obfuscation. Under the languages of Indigenization, decolonization, inclusion, diversity, equity and so on, languages which once threatened the university with the appropriation and remaining is now fully on the way in a University that looks no different from the […] in the post 1968 moment.
[00:41:16] Despite all the retro of contemporary transformation, the most significant remaking of the University happened post-68 and for a very brief moment and nothing has matched its sense. But if you were not paying attention, you would think that we are in the post 60 moment again, we are not. And therefore it is imperative that we are clear about the stakes and struggles we are in.
[00:41:41] We must not concede the crucially important idea of decolonization to the University as a plaything that continues to enable white supremacy on the pseudonym. Indeed, the “people culture inclusion” offices and the representatives not white bodies as in a few singular people, actually only exist because of the power and the treat of the idea of decolonization. And we cannot afford at this time to have individuals be willingly deployed to interrupt more radical more collective demands the making of a new different and, dare I say, better world.
[00:42:19] Decolonization, as foundation for the kind of freedom I want to articulate is an overthrow of the dominant and violent register of the singular account of a global being. In some recent scholarship, the debate concerning the poignancy of the anti-colonial versus the decolonial has positioned those as belonging to different conceptual and even geographical spaces and languages.
[00:42:43] And one is given primacy over the other as if such primacy legitimate correct processes for or towards decolonization.
[00:42:52] In my reading of both terms, the functional stages towards decolonization, which for me are the stages toward a possible freedom. The move from colonial to anti-colonial to decolonial represents the phases of how we might get free. As a process towards freedom rather than different conceptions of freedom, I argue that anti-colonialism is one moment of phase of the freedom struggle in which the desired outcome is a decolonial present and decolonized future.
[00:43:24] Therefore I write against the logic that these are all different and not a part of a continuum or phases that unfold on and into each other, back onto and into each other. Indeed, a decolonial present and the decolonized future would be one in which Euro-American humanism is not the central mechanism through which life is organized globally and such a profound refusal would radically shift our relationship to what is now called nation and state tethered together as the nation state ordering how planetary life is organized.
[00:43:59] In the late stages of global postmodern culture, narratives of liberation have been reduced to the horizons of capital sovereignty, self-determination, land, representative democracy. And these are all the post-enlightenment ideas of European expansion and its imposition of how the globe should be ordered.
[00:44:16] If we are to approach something that we might imagine as freedom, we will have to risk saying what that something is. Increasingly for me that something rests in refusing the post-enlightenment categories the ones I just mentioned and these ones: red, white, Black, women, Queer, gay and so on, that Euro-American modernism has bequeathed us. By this I mean, that even as the historical weight of those categories shape how we experience the world, we also know there is something beyond them. In fact, something beyond them that is in relation to them and even partially produced by them but also exceeds them.
[00:44:59] And it is the sober reality of that hybrid nature of our experience that demands new forms of invention, of sociality. These new inventions of sociality will take as their foundational structure and refusal, the historical brutality of our encounters to fashion new new modes of being together and thus to invent a new beingness.
[00:45:20] The earlier insistence that anti-colonial practices are in service of a decolonize present and a – sorry – a decolonial present and a decolonized world, which is to restate a world without the practice of domination points towards the freedom that is to come. But only if we can break the brutal and seductive hole that Euro-American humanism has locked us into.
[00:45:44] Of course, history has intervened as Stuart Hall has taught us so well. We must now carve out and invent a freedom that is unshackled from Euro-American humanism. A freedom that emerges from the encounters of European expansion and one that exceeds its ideological formations.
[00:46:00] To do so means we’ll have to encounter each other within and against the world orienting forces to Euro-American humanism. It is a task worth pursuing.
[00:46:13] The late Caribbean novelist, essayist and activist, George Lamming, understood the task as one of invention. Writing of the Caribbean region but, I think his idea is bigger than the region, he theorizes what decolonization might be.
[00:46:30] He states, and I give him the last word. So quote: “And that is the most urgent task and the greatest intellectual challenge. How to control the burden of this history and incorporate it into our collective sense of the future.” Thank you.
[00:47:13] Dr. Christina Sharpe: Thank you so much, Professors Green, Starblanket and Walcott for your remarks. Thank you.
[00:47:23] So I'm gonna begin by saying that each of you has offered us a really rich set of thoughts and provocations around the theme of Reckonings and Re-Imaginings, around the impediments, their possibilities and impossibilities and really the work that is to be done.
[00:47:48] So I want to open up our dialogue with an invitation, and it’s a genuine invitation though, you don't have a take me up on this it's an invitation not a requirement. And that is to, after listening to each other's remarks today, and I know that Professor Green and Starblanket often collaborate, but after listening to each other’s remarks today, is there anything that you would like to ask your co-presenters to elaborate on? Is there something in particular that they said that resonated with, or perhaps challenged what you're currently thinking about and how you are thinking about it?
[00:48:28] You know, I'm thinking about Professor Green talking about the kind of work, the unfinished or really deeply incomplete work of restitution. You know, the question of political arrangement and community and the question of meaning. So, is there anything you’d like to ask each other?
[00:48:52] You know I’ve got questions so, you know.
[00:48:57] Dr. Joyce Green: I enjoyed every word they uttered. [Laughter] And I found them immensely challenging and I will ask them no questions until I've had a chance to think more deeply.
[00:49:15] Dr. Christina Sharpe: So you’re throwing it back to me then. [Laughter] Okay. Except, would either of you like to?
[00:49:27] Dr. Gina Starblanket: I'm not coming up with anything immediately.
[00:49:30] Dr. Christina Sharpe: I’ll step in. [Laughter]. So then, let me try to decipher my notes. To say that okay, we need I think new vocabularies that give meaning to our social, I think we need new social political and analytical categories that give meaning to our lives and work.
[00:50:01] What is a necessary word, phrase or concept that’s central to your individual and communal work. The work of imagining otherwise I mean so I've heard restitution, responsibility, desire, refusal, relation, imagination, home, risk, story. And so was is, if you were to choose one, what’s the necessary word, concept or phrase that you would highlight now? what would you want this concept to animate and therefore make thinkable and doable?
[00:50:43] Dr. Gina Starblanket: So I talked about situating things within our own context and so for me Treaty is an enormously important context in terms of thinking about how to relate across difference. Thinking about how to relate to people we might not even speak the same language as, as let alone have immense cultural and ideological sort of chasms.
[00:51:07] We used to have those resources as Indigenous People prior to Canada and, for me, rebuilding our own capacities to be able to organize and work well in relation means being able to reclaim and also create new practices of what that might mean. So, treaty, for me, is something very localized that is an incredible source of inspiration for how to work across difference and think beyond those sorts of identity related categories.
[00:51:44] Dr. Christina Sharpe: Thank you.
[00:51:47] Dr. Joyce Green: I think I would like to foreground Rinaldo's instruction which I read in his work and that was in my preoccupation with land and history, we must not forget the distinction between those who work commodified their bodies were commodified for Indigenous people, we weren't wanted and so our land was taken. So we have a landless people brought here under force and exploited and we have a people who had land and have been eviscerated from their land and their practices and I think there is much common terrain we have despite that fundamentally different historical positioning because the outcome now is we’re here, and we’re staying.
[00:52:43] And we are planning a future in which we can honour all of our ancestors. And in which we can claim all of our ancestral teachings, including those we have lost in some mechanism, and what Gina does always so powerfully, is provide the theoretical apparatus that allows us to conceptualize these things. I can give you an account she can give you the theoretical framing that can animate a political project.
[00:53:17] Dr. Christina Sharpe: So, in a sense, you know, it seems like you’re building on the word Treaty not as a legalistic framework but in a sense of how one negotiates space and being across historical and current differences within a space of relation.
[00:53:34] Dr. Joyce Green: Let me put a qualification on that. Ktunaxa do not have a treaty. And I point out that a great labor negotiator once told me always negotiate from strengths. Don't think we’re in a good position to negotiate with the governments of BC and Canada. We don't need a treaty to know who we are and what is ours. So, the political project then is how to compel Canada and BC to understand that they are the ones that need to make the concessions because every time we are taken to a treaty table, we are told that the governments will recognize certain insignificant rights in return for our agreeing that we’re giving up everything else. And that is not a treaty I want.
[00:54:21] Dr. Christina Sharpe: Thank you. Rinaldo?
[00:54:30] Dr. Rinaldo Walcott: I’ll pick two words, invention and risk. They’re the two words that are animating my comments today. And I pick them for a very particular kinds of reason. I think that, what post-enlightenment Euro-American humanism does is it offers us capitalism and the nation states as the only avatars in the context of which we can invent and take risk.
[00:54:59] And part of my argument is that in terms of exceeding the logics of Euro-American humanism, that we can indeed engage in new acts of invention. But to engage in those new acts of invention means that we must take some risks. It means we must take some risks in refusing sometimes the language of land because it’s so deeply contaminated by Euro-American ideological positions of what land is, sovereignty, all of these, all of the languages that we now use to try and made […] inside.
[00:55:37] The arrangements that Euro-American humanism have offered us are deeply, they set a horizon and therefore, they continually interrupt the possibility of the risk we need to take to invent new forms of social life. So, what Gina and Joyce just said about how they work with treaty is exactly the place within which I see the interesting possibilities for new forms of invention of social life and meaning.
[00:56:06] Dr. Christina Sharpe: Thank you. Rinaldo, at the end of your talk and I got lost writing it down, you said something hybrid inventions of sociality. And that really made me think of things that both Joyce and Gina said I think Joyce in terms of, you began by talking about the complexity of identity and that you know very well because you inhabit that complexity and identity. And then Gina, when you were thinking with Eve Tuck, and thinking about the question of desire really is that which might allow one’s complicated and entire self to enter into the kinds of commitments and work the to be done. So I think, it is not so much a question but it’s an invitation to keep thinking along these lines, because I think without having read each other’s remarks. You all touch on a very similar thing about a kind of invention of sociality which puts identity under pressure and which I think speaks to the kinds of invention and risk that Rinaldo was also turning us to. So, I just wonder if there is more you world all like to say about that, together?
[00:57:27] Dr. Rinaldo Walcott: I mean, if I might briefly. Part of what I was trying to get at by that phrase, kind of hybrid social practices, is to kind of push against the kind of logics of singular identities that the Euro-American humanism offers us, you are only Black, you’re only Queer, you’re only woman, you’re only Indigenous. And so, even in that logic it breaks the fact we have the ongoing existing relations. And so those logics don’t allow us to often, speak those into places like universities and its desires, that I think complicated those narratives and when our desires on full display, then that entire edifice begins to crumble.
[00:58:16] Dr. Gina Starblanket: Yes, I think we’ve had to really kind of, you know, Indigenous political thought and practice we've had to kind of really articulates these and construct and articulate these notions of identities that are perhaps a means to an end, right? But desire can, get us out of that and think through a fuller picture of what we want our political projects to entail and look like. And it makes sense for many years we had to have this sort of charting out of what we stand for in terms of this decolonial or resurgence movement of Indigenous feminism movement or whatever the case, right?
[00:59:03] The sort of definitional phase which inherently necessitates a bit of a defensive posturing. And staking out of parameters. But once that space has been carved out, there’s still always a self legitimation task and project. We’re always gonna have to legitimatize our knowledge as credible. But we also can, I think, extend and maybe lower some of those boundaries and parameters, boundaries around who we are right? So that we can start to invite and open ourselves to relations of I think change, relations of transformation that can happen across those boundaries.
[00:59:48] Dr. Joyce Green: I think I’m always reminded of the late great Edward Said’s observation that none of us is only one thing. In other words, we are fundamentally, as human beings, inclined towards hybridity of genetics, if not always of culture and politics. And I embrace that. I think it is important for us to remember that we have far more in common as human beings then we’d like to assume. Our political project, although may be distinctive depending on our historical and present cultural context, but we should find common cause as human beings to understand each other's contexts and to support each other and to come together in less essentialist ways then the colonial states has constructed for us. Including in its constitutional designation of Indians, Inuit and Métis, which leaves out a hell of a lot of Indigenous people.
[01:00:53] And purports to define one of them Indians through that utterly racist and colonial piece of legislation, the Indian Act. So we have many reasons to be very cautious about the state which invites me always to point you toward who the state represents and who is most closely allied with. And from the point of colonization for all of us onward, that has been about a search for profitability, which is always the most exquisite when it includes the stolen wealth of others.
[01:01:29] So, if we begin with that and proceed on I think we can find much that will mobilize us collectively, damn, I hate to come to a positive conclusion there.
[01:01:40] Dr. Christina Sharpe: But I thought you were not going to come to a positive conclusion and here you are.
[01:01:45] Dr. Joyce Green: Here is our homework. Can we come together to save our world, our land, our territory, our water, all living things. The great […] of ʔa·kxamis q̓api qapsin. We have responsibilities to all living things not just to ourselves, not just my history but also to your history, not just to human beings, but to the bees, to the caribou and to the frogs and to the bears and so on. I don't need to enumerate the entire animal in order for you to understand that what I'm saying is, the greatest political preoccupation of all of us must be this existential matter of survival or not in the face of the corporate and political collaboration to rid the world of us as quickly as they can.
[01:02:42] Dr. Christina Sharpe: I think that is a place to end. Thank you.
[01:01:57] You answer my last question without me even asking it which was what should we be doing together towards new modes of being together with us and all of our relations. So thank you all so much.
[01:03:17] Andrea Davis: Thank you so much to our panelists, Joyce Green, Gina Starblanket, and Rinaldo Walcott - and our moderator – Christina Sharpe for challenging us so profoundly and for accepting our invitation to be here today.
[01:03:31] As I listen to you, I recognize that even the term Re-imagining that is a part of this year’s theme is itself fraught right? Because it’s not, for many of us, it's not an invitation into some kind of easy reassurance. For some of us it is an opening into revolutionary thoughts and actions. If we are really going to change the world and something in this world then something in this world needs to not only change but break and yields.
[01:04:15] And all of us have to decide what that means for us. So thank you so much for that.
[01:04:32] On behalf of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and York University, a big thank you again to the Big Thinking sponsors The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada foundation for Innovation, Universities Canada and Sage publishing.
[01:04:50] If you’d like to revisit the presentation, the video will be available on the Congress virtual platform in the coming days were you can view it until June 30th. Today’s lecture is of the first of the Big Thinking events at Congress 2023. The second lecture, “Seeds of the Future: Climate Justice, Racial Justice, and Indigenous Resurgence,” by filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, in conversation with Eve Tuck and Susan Blight, will take place tomorrow at the same time, 12:15-1:15 pm EDT, in this room or virtually.
[01:05:31] Please continue the conversation in your associations. If you are Black, Indigenous, or otherly racialized and need a space together we have three spaces for you one Centre for Indigenous Student Services in the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages in York Lanes; for Black scholars in the Harriet Tubman Institute also in York Lanes; and for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour scholars in the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean in the Kaneff Tower.
[01:06:04] Share your ideas on social media with the hashtag Congressh, Congress with an ‘h’ at the end, we are also inviting you to fill out a short survey using your mobile device you can scan the QR code on the screen behind me.
[01:06:20] Thank you so much for joining us today, please enjoy the rest of your day and your remaining sessions at Congress. Merci. Miigewetch.