Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination

Duke University Press
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What does it mean to say that Native peoples exist in the present?  In Beyond Settler Time Mark Rifkin investigates the dangers of seeking to include Indigenous peoples within settler temporal frameworks. Claims that Native peoples should be recognized as coeval with Euro-Americans, Rifkin argues, implicitly treat dominant non-native ideologies and institutions as the basis for defining time itself. How, though, can Native peoples be understood as dynamic and changing while also not assuming that they belong to a present inherently shared with non-natives? Drawing on physics, phenomenology, queer studies, and postcolonial theory, Rifkin develops the concept of "settler time" to address how Native peoples are both consigned to the past and inserted into the present in ways that normalize non-native histories, geographies, and expectations. Through analysis of various kinds of texts, including government documents, film, fiction, and autobiography, he explores how Native experiences of time exceed and defy such settler impositions. In underscoring the existence of multiple temporalities, Rifkin illustrates how time plays a crucial role in Indigenous peoples’ expressions of sovereignty and struggles for self-determination.
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About the author

Mark Rifkin is Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program and Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and the author of several books, including Settler Common Sense: Queerness and Everyday Colonialism in the American Renaissance.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Feb 2, 2017
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Pages
296
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ISBN
9780822373421
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / Native American Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In Settler Common Sense, Mark Rifkin explores how canonical American writers take part in the legacy of displacing Native Americans. Although the books he focuses on are not about Indians, they serve as examples of what Rifkin calls “settler common sense,” taking for granted the legal and political structure through which Native peoples continue to be dispossessed.

In analyzing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, Rifkin shows how the novel draws on Lockean theory in support of small-scale landholding and alternative practices of homemaking. The book invokes white settlers in southern Maine as the basis for its ethics of improvement, eliding the persistent presence of Wabanaki peoples in their homeland. Rifkin suggests that Henry David Thoreau’s Walden critiques property ownership as a form of perpetual debt. Thoreau’s vision of autoerotic withdrawal into the wilderness, though, depends on recasting spaces from which Native peoples have been dispossessed as places of non-Native regeneration. As against the turn to “nature,” Herman Melville’s Pierre presents the city as a perversely pleasurable place to escape from inequities of land ownership in the country. Rifkin demonstrates how this account of urban possibility overlooks the fact that the explosive growth of Manhattan in the nineteenth century was possible only because of the extensive and progressive displacement of Iroquois peoples upstate.

Rifkin reveals how these texts’ queer imaginings rely on treating settler notions of place and personhood as self-evident, erasing the advancing expropriation and occupation of Native lands. Further, he investigates the ways that contemporary queer ethics and politics take such ongoing colonial dynamics as an unexamined framework in developing ideas of freedom and justice.

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