Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics invites submissions for a new blog series on “Native Liberation and Abolition.” We invite contributions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, writers, activists, organizers, and artists who can offer insight on the historical and contemporary forms of Native liberation movements and the liberatory practices incorporated in Indigenous societies and movement […]
by David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile
Settler states criminalize protectors of Indigenous life, land, and water by labeling them ‘threats of violence.’ But, Indigenous protectors are exposing policing to be a precarious performance of settler sovereignty.
“The state reinforces a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed.” –Macarena Gómez-Barris
The State of Hawaiʻi was founded on land stolen from Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. To be clear, it is a U.S. settler state. It formed initially in the wake of the illegal U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. As the Republic of Hawaiʻi, it granted the unlawful annexation of the Hawaiian islands and transferal of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s national lands to the U.S. federal government in 1898. After being the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the U.S. federal government manufactured the “State of Hawai‘i” in 1959 and institutionalized it as the so-called fiftieth state, without consent from Kānaka Maoli. The legal, economic, political, and social processes for settlement of Hawaiʻi are ongoing to this very day. One pivotal way that settlement has continued is through the criminalization of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. Particularly, the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i turns Kānaka ‘Ōiwi into criminals to be detained, incarcerated, maimed, removed, murdered, and disappeared. The criminalization of Indigenous people—from Hawai‘i to the Americas, Palestine, and elsewhere—is an eliminatory technique for colonial dispossession. As Kānaka Maoli have been labeled threats of violence to be criminalized for defending our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, water protectors of Mnisose, the Missouri River, have been also as a way to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Accusations of violence were used to unleash dog attacks, strip search women, bag heads in hoods, rip flesh from bone with water cannons. The assault on Indigenous life, land, and water at Standing Rock clarifies how, as Chickasaw scholar Jodi A. Byrd laments, “in the United States, the Indian is the original enemy combatant.” For legal historian Lisa Ford, the criminalization of Indigenous populations, across Oceania and America, is an original feature of settler sovereignty. She writes, “The exercise of jurisdiction over indigenous crime performs the myth of settler sovereignty over and over.” What Ford refers to as legal myth literary critic Mark Rifkin calls the empty sign of settler sovereignty, which, performed obsessively over and over again, reveals a hollowness in settler state power to be targeted and antagonized.
But how does the state materially reinforce a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed? In this essay, I suggest it is through the management of threats of violence. To support this argument, I explore settler state policing from the vantage of Kanaka Maoli opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a development project for the astronomy industry at our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea on Hawai‘i island. Analyzing three material objects—an emergency rule, bullet hole, and knee—I track how symbolic threats of violence are manufactured to obscure and exact concrete violences. But, what can an administrative law, image of a hole in a door, and body part of a police officer tell us about threats of violence? Indeed, these legal, visual, and fleshy objects are quite revealing. Interrogating discourses mingling through and amongst them, I argue ‘threats of violence’ is a discursive formation produced by the settler state and dispersed through its institutions of media and police. Weaving together scholarship from Critical Police, Hawaiian, and Indigenous Studies, I demonstrate ‘threats of violence’ maintains a dual function. First, suggesting that Kānaka Maoli who defend Mauna a Wākea from the TMT threaten acts of violence, and are violent threats themselves, rationalizes police intervention by the U.S. settler state. In other words, figurative threats of alleged violence from kia‘i, the guardians and protectors of our mountain, condone material violence against them by police. Second, ‘threats of violence’ defers and tries to erase not only the colonial violence animating the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i, and its deployment of police and their militarized interventions, but also the diversity of violence that TMT does. In what follows, I mine three material objects, offer two interventions, and conclude with one mo‘olelo—a story that lays bare how settler state policing of Kānaka Maoli is a performance of precarity.
“Let us burn this motherfucking system to the ground and build something better.”
-Claire Vaye Watkins
In this article, the authors examine the ways in which the state, broadly understood as a technique, practice, and effect of modern governance and its optimization, creates impossible conditions for radical political transformation in the U.S. To illustrate these conditions, the authors show how the state relies upon notions of decency or civility to enact and elide blatant colonialism. The authors draw from the following examples to advance this argument: the “EPA Spill” or the ongoing environmental genocide shaping life across occupied Indigenous lands in the U.S. Southwest; the surprising, yet all too ordinary, election of President Trump; and the racist detainment of children from Central America in the name of humanitarian “law and order.” The authors contend that because these acts illustrate how Euro-American colonial norms continue to shape everyday violence, abolition as a praxis and vision must contend with how to burn down all of the mechanics of contemporary governance, to cooperatively dismantle the state as such, before promoting alternative social systems and political worlds. One way that the authors propose to accomplish this is to incinerate decency as an organizing precept for democracy, civic comportment, and political participation.
by Sara C. Motta
We remain in body and spirit, despite the violence injected in our bones, hearts and wombs by the racist patriarchal capitalist-colonial system.
Our rage is a palpable and righteous response to this violence. But new worlds cannot be built on rage alone. Our struggle to move from survival to flourishing can be nurtured by and through decolonising love.
“To best illustrate her convincing analysis of actually existing jurisdiction, Pasternak asks us to sharpen our metaphorical guillotines — or our skinning knives — to lop off the head of the king, the sovereign, the head of state. What authority proliferates in the absence of this false symbol of power? Surely, in Turtle Island what remains and grows in the absence of the long shadow cast by colonialism are the robust forms of Indigenous legal authority: the enduring, preexisting, and co-developed authorities existing alongside imperial and colonial legalities. But from where does Indigenous authority derive? It certainly does not come from a divine ruler, the sovereign, or the most powerful political and territorial imaginary in history: the nation-state. These realms of “civilization” categorically consign Indigenous peoples to that lawless space where life is, to quote Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” A place we can call death. On the other hand, Algonquin political authority, Pasternak powerfully demonstrates, derives from a multiplicity of institutions, individuals, and other-than-human agents that encompass the resilience of Indigenous life in the face of constant erasure, disappearance, and elimination.”
by Matthew Chrisler
How does participation in Canadian Reconciliation further the colonial governance of Indigenous peoples? This is the central question of Jaskiran Dhillon’s new monograph, Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention (University of Toronto Press, 2017). Tracing the impact of nonprofit programs focused on intervening in the lives of Indigenous youth trapped in circuits of incarceration and social marginalization, Dhillon provides powerful new evidence for what Indigenous scholars and activists have argued is only a kinder, gentler colonialism.
It was only a matter of time before Zionism and Native American Studies [NAS] came into conflict—or, to be more precise, before Zionists began targeting the field for acrimony and recrimination, as they have long done to various humanities and social science disciplines. With an increasingly global focus (in concert with emphasis on local concerns), a commitment to material transformation, a disdain for US imperialism and militarism, a rejection of state power in nearly all its manifestations, and a plethora of young artists and scholar-activists interested in Palestine, it’s little surprise that Israeli colonization would become a topic in the field. And because most people in the field don’t have nice things to say about Israel, some of the state’s apologists have forced themselves into Indigenous spaces with a singular purpose: to intimidate its practitioners into obedience. As usual, those undertaking the intimidation know nothing about the people they endeavor to subdue. Over five centuries of history prove that Indigenous peoples are not given to submission.
Call for Proposals:
Abolish Border Imperialism!
a weekend convergence for working towards abolition and decolonization
October 6-8, 2017 – Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota
Resurgent border imperialism is producing a new round of repressions, deportations, and bans. It is emboldening white fascism and militarizing walls. From the reservation to the city, Indigenous peoples, immigrants, women, workers, queer and trans folks, Black and brown communities are facing criminalization, exploitation, deportation, incarceration, harassment, and violence. The organizing collective of Abolition: a journal of insurgent politics invites your proposals for a multi-faceted, multi-group convergence in the Twin Cities this fall!
– by David Langstaff –
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, fascism has once again returned to center stage in left political discourse. If we aim to overcome the impasse of left praxis, our theories of fascism and resistance must refuse false dichotomies of race and class, as well as the treating of fascist violence as a radical departure from the normal operations of the liberal democratic state. Fascistic ascendance, as an historically specific manifestation of white nationalist revanchism, cannot be meaningfully apprehended apart from the foundations of the U.S. settler colonial state in racial slavery and genocide. Turning towards this “position of the unthought” opens up the possibility, not only of grasping systemic violence at its roots, but of recognizing and imagining, celebrating and embracing, forms of insurgent social life which already move beneath, against, and beyond the socio-ecological catastrophe that is the modern world.
– by Alexandre Publia –
Students in South Africa demanded that Rhodes Must Fall. They led nationwide protests for education and social reform. What must fall in California?
The Rhodes Must Fall collective (RMF), which is overwhelmingly led by marginalized, Black university students, has demanded more than institutional “transformation.” Instead, they have consistently demanded total “decolonization”: a radical abolition and re-imagination of entire social structures. Other university students, like those in CA and across the U.S., have much to learn from RMF.
– by Zaina Alsous –
Anyone who seeks to defeat Trumpism should be extremely disturbed by U.S. and Israeli collaboration. Israel provides a model for the state that Trump wants to create: one forged in violent racial segregation, militarized policing, and white nationalist propaganda. …
Now more than ever, we cannot cede the battle against anti-Semitism to Israel.
Those of us who want prison abolition must consider a call, simultaneously, to deschool society. This intervention describes how the system of education is complicit in the propagation of neoliberal capitalist imperialism, and also points to the relationship between education, diversity, death and debt.
A conversation between Harsha Walia and Andrew Dilts, recorded February 5, 2015. Edited for length and clarity, January 2016. Although the conversation is somewhat dated and political contexts are shifting, the overall issues remain relevant. Andrew Dilts (AD): I want to start by asking about “No One is Illegal” and your involvement with it. You talk about this a lot in […]