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The Transit of Empire

The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism

Jodi A. Byrd
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Transit of Empire
    Book Description:

    Jodi A. Byrd explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement serving as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd contends that the colonization of American Indian and indigenous nations is the necessary ground to reimagine a future where the losses of indigenous peoples are visible, but they have agency to transform life on their lands and on their terms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7870-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface Full Fathom Five
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Indigenous Critical Theory and the Diminishing Returns of Civilization
    (pp. xv-xl)

    What does it mean to be in transit? Mass transit, certificates of transit, and transits of planets across the sun denote movement, security, and rational explanation. Transit evokes the cacophony of traffic jams and exhaust fumes of the everyday workday, or the elegance and easy silence of the morning star rising and falling on the horizon in cycles that help navigators move among islands and allow growers to determine seasons for planting and harvesting. As a word, transit implies fluidity, noise, and instability. In a world of increasing global capital and environmental change, transit can also contradictorily mean responsibility, green...

  5. 1 Is and Was Poststructural Indians without Ancestry
    (pp. 1-38)

    In 1768 Captain James Cook sailed towards the Pacific islands of Tahiti, Aotearoa, and Australia on the good shipEndeavorin search of a southern continent and, perhaps more aspirationally, a way to map the universe. While there is debate as to what colonial contrivance provided the primal impetus to unfurl the sails of theEndeavor, Nicholas Thomas suggests that it was the Royal Society’s desire to observe the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun that served as the primary motivation, at least initially, for the mission.¹ The transit of Venus is a rare occurrence—...

  6. 2 “This Island’s Mine” The Parallax Logics of Caliban’s Cacophony
    (pp. 39-76)

    How did the impulse to constellate the Americas into European colonial alignment come to depend upon the lamentable but ungrievable Indian? How do arrivants and other peoples forced to move through empire use indigeneity as a transit to redress, grieve, and fill the fractures and ruptures created through diaspora and exclusion? What happens to indigeneity within liberal multicultural settler societies when a multitude of historical experiences can each claim themselves as the real and autochthonous experience of originary violence and oppression in lands stolen from original inhabitants? And what happens to indigenous peoples and the stakes of sovereignty, land, and...

  7. 3 The Masks of Conquest Wilson Harris’s Jonestown and the Thresholds of Grievability
    (pp. 77-116)

    On November 18, 1978, the United States and Guyana were shaken by news that U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and several of those traveling with him had been assassinated on an airstrip in Port Kaituma shortly after having visited the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Jonestown, Guyana. And while that event was shocking enough within the neocolonial international relations between the two countries, a deeper horror emerged as news came of the mass suicide and murder of over 900 people, most of them U.S. citizens, who lived in Jonestown and followed the Reverend Jim Jones’s teachings. On the twentieth anniversary of...

  8. 4 “Been to the Nation, Lord, but I Couldn’t Stay There” Cherokee Freedmen, Internal Colonialism, and the Racialization of Citizenship
    (pp. 117-146)

    In 1942 physicist Niels Bohr reportedly remarked upon his visit to Kronborg Castle in Demark, “Isn’t it strange how this castle changes as soon as one imagines that Hamlet lived here?”¹ The possibility of transformation, of “retrospective world-building” based upon the usual suspects of narrative and remembrance—the who, what, why, and when of a location—is something that Keith Basso discusses in his analysis of Western Apache spatial knowledges as place-making. Basso writes, “What is remembered about a particular place—including, prominently, verbal and visual accounts of what has transpired there—guides and constrains how it will be imagined...

  9. 5 Satisfied with Stones Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization and the Discourses of Resistance
    (pp. 147-184)

    For a while now, as discussed in the first chapter, literary scholars, historians, and American studies scholars have perennially debated when and how U.S. empire emerged to reveal its face to the rest of the world. Often in these discussions, 1898 circulates, Victor Bascara explains inModel-Minority Imperialism, as “aberration,” “a moment of decision to take up imperialism,” and “an unburdening of empire, the removal of the ideological and material encumbrances that make expansion hard to legitimate.”¹ The nineteenth-century fin de siècle marked, Bascara says, the moment “the United States first became an old-style empire, forcibly acquiring lands beyond its...

  10. 6 Killing States Removals, Other Americans, and the “Pale Promise of Democracy”
    (pp. 185-220)

    On June 27, 1942, John Collier, acting as administrator of the sole internment camp run by the Office of Indian Affairs, addressed the first group of 7,500 Japanese American internees at Poston, Arizona, on the Colorado River Indian Reservation (CRIR). His speech was the culmination of a policy vision of Indian self-management and economic self-sufficiency that stretched from the 1930s and collided headlong with the events that followed December 7, 1941. Poston, Arizona, and the Colorado River Indian Reservation, as Ruth Okimoto’s research inSharing a Desert Homehas shown, spatialized the competing hegemonies that carved the reservation out of...

  11. Conclusion: Zombie Imperialism
    (pp. 221-230)

    The Transit of Empirehas taken as its point of entry the constellating discourses that juridically, culturally, and constitutionally produce “Indians” as an operational site within U.S. expansionism. “Indianness” circulates within poststructural, postcolonial, critical race, and queer theories as both sign and event; as a process of signification and exception, “Indianness” starts, stops, and reboots the colonialist discourses that spread along lines of flight that repeatedly challenge the multicultural liberal settler state to remediate freedom despite the fact that such colonializing liberalisms established themselves through force, violence, and genocide in order to make freedom available for some and not others....

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 231-234)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-270)
  14. Index
    (pp. 271-294)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-295)