Caretaking Relations, Not American Dreaming: #IdleNoMore, #BlackLivesMatter, and #NoDAPL

Monday, 16 July 2018: 08:30
Location: Constitution Hall (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)
Oral Presentation
Kim TALLBEAR, University of Alberta, Canada
I examine the caretaking of relations that I see embodied in several recent social movements led by women, two-spirit, and queer people. #IdleNoMore, #NoDAPL, and #BlackLivesMatter are commonly understood as environmental and/or social justice/anti-racist movements that call settler-colonial states, including the US and Canada, to make good on their treaty promises or civil and human rights law, to live up to their supposed dreams of liberty and inclusion. Since 2012, I have watched these movements unfold. Looming large in my vision fed by the 24-hour news cycle and more importantly by friends and colleagues on the ground of those movements and on social media, is Indigenous and black women and queer people caretaking their peoples. In the case of Indigenous-led movements, I also see a caretaking of other-than-human kin, the land and water—all our relations. In this moment of crisis—new to some but ongoing for many—is an opportunity to unsettle the American Dream that brings violence to so many at home and abroad. Turning our redemptive attention away from empire to instead focus on caretaking relations defies a foundational settler-colonial narrative—that nature/culture binary that puts humans at the top of a hierarchy of life, and white men and the top of that. American dreaming is rooted in a vision that cannot see bodies in mutually sustaining relation. It objectifies black and brown bodies, women’s bodies, land and water bodies, and many bodies on down its hierarchy. The usually white men at the top—be they clergy, statesmen, or scientists—have long viewed it as their civilized prerogative to alternately exploit or steward life according to their animacy hierarchy. Their narratives script a particular structure of violence. This talk proposes instead another productive script.