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Keynote Speakers


The Chief’s Two Bodies: Theresa Spence and the Gender of Settler Sovereignty

Audra Simpson
Associate Professor, Anthropology
Columbia University

This paper examines the geopolitical logic of settler colonialism and Indigenous (women’s) death that underwrites incredulity and skepticism that met (Chief) Theresa Spence’s hunger strike in December and January 2012-13. In it I argue that the structure of settler colonialism in Canada showed its public face in blog posts, editorial commentary and popular discourse (not to mention formal politics) when Spence’s strategic life in the face of a stated and willed death, continued on – as hers was a life that was already predisposed to death. The paper concludes that this political strategy of willed death, and its reception, was one that worked effectively to highlight the gendered, and flourishing biopolitical life of settler sovereignty.

Audra Simpson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Her book, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States is published by Duke University Press (2014). She is the editor of the Syracuse University’s reprint of Lewis Henry Morgan’s anthropological classic, League of the Haudenosaunee (under contract) and co-editor (with Andrea Smith) of Theorizing Native Studies, also with Duke University Press. She has articles in Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures, Law and Contemporary Problems and Wicazo Sa Review. She contributed to the edited volume Political Theory and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Cambridge: Cambridge Press 2000) and was the volume editor of Recherches amerindiennes au quebec (RAQ: 1999) on “new directions in Iroquois studies.” She is the recipient of fellowships and awards from Fulbright, the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Dartmouth College, the American Anthropological Association, Cornell University and the School for Advanced Research (Santa Fe, NM). In 2010 she won Columbia University’s School for General Studies “Excellence in Teaching Award.” She is a Kahnawake Mohawk.

Recent Publications:

  • Mohawk Interruptus. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • Theorizing Native Studies (co-edited with Andrea Smith). Durham: Duke University Press, 2014
  • Settlement's Secret, Cultural Anthropology 26, 2 (2011) : 205-217
  • Under the Sign of Sovereignty: Certainty, Ambivalence and Law in Native North America and Indigenous Australia. Wicazo Sa Review, 25, 2 (2010): 107-124.




Brick Walls: Racism and Other Hard Histories

Sara Ahmed
Professor, Race and Cultural Studies
Goldsmiths, University of London

In my book, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life I considered how diversity workers often describe their work as “banging their head against a brick wall.” In this lecture, I want to reflect further on walls as how history becomes concrete. A wall is made of hard matter. Hardness can refer to the physical quality of resistance to being transformed. Thinking through and with walls, the material stuff of power, allows us to explore how diversity work (both the work we do when we try to transform an institution and the work we do when we do not quite inhabit the norms of an institution) can be an experience of shattering and of assembling new worlds from being shattered.

Sara Ahmed, Professor of Race and Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. She works at the intersection of feminist, critical race, postcolonial and queer theory. Her work is concerned with how bodies and worlds take shape; and how power is secured and challenged in everyday life worlds, as well as institutional cultures. Publications include: Difference that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism (1998); Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (2000); The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004), Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (2006); The Promise of Happiness (2010), On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, and Willful Subjects (2014). She is currently writing a book Living a Feminist Life and has begun a new research project on “the uses of use.”

Recent Publications:

  • Willful Subjects (Duke University Press, August, 2014).
  • On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (Duke University Press, 2012).
  • The Promise of Happiness. Duke University Press, 2010.




Red Skin, White Masks
Glen Sean CoulthardAssistant Professor, First Nations Studies & Political ScienceUniversity of British Columbia

Over the last forty years, the self-determination claims of Indigenous peoples in Canada have increasingly been cast in the language of “recognition”: recognition of Indigenous cultural distinctiveness, recognition of an Indigenous right to land and self-government, recognition of Indigenous peoples’ right to benefit from the development of their lands and resources. In addition, the last fifteen years have witnessed a proliferation of scholarship which has sought to flesh-out the ethical, legal and political questions that these types of claims raise. Subsequently, “recognition” has now come to occupy a central place in our efforts to comprehend what is at stake in contestations over identity and difference in liberal settler-polities more generally. Red Skin, White Masks sets out to critically engage this emergent field of Indigenous recognition politics in two ways. First, it challenges the now commonplace assumption that the colonial relationship between Indigenous peoples and the state can be “reconciled” via such a politics of recognition. Second, it explores glimpses of an alternative politics. Drawing critically from Indigenous and non-Indigenous intellectual and activist traditions, I explore a decolonial politics of Indigenous self-recognition that is less oriented around attaining an affirmative form of recognition and institutional accommodation by the colonial-state and society, and more about critically revaluing, reconstructing and redeploying Indigenous cultural practices in ways that seek to prefigure radical alternatives to the hierarchical social relations that continue to facilitate the dispossession of our lands and self-determining authority.

Glen Sean Coulthard is Yellowknives Dene and an assistant professor in the First Nations Studies Program and the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Dr. Coulthard has written and published in the areas of contemporary political theory, indigenous thought and politics, and radical social and political thought. His work on Frantz Fanon and the politics of recognition won Contemporary Political Theory’s Annual Award for Best Article of the Year in 2007. He is the author of Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (2014), and co-editor (with Avigail Eisenberg and Jeremy Webber) of Recognition versus Self-Determination Dilemmas of Emancipation Politics (2014).

Recent Publications:

  • Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition: Dilemmas of Emancipatory Politics. University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
  • Recognition and Self-Determination (co-edited with Andrée Boisselle, Avigail Eisenberg, and Jeremy Webber). Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2014.