[-empyre-] November -empyre- discussion, DURATION: PASSAGE, PERSISTENCE, SURVIVAL

Brian Holmes bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com
Fri Nov 23 20:49:36 AEDT 2018

Hans, I think you are probably well aware of what I am about to say. The
concept of indigeneity is difficult for Americans because, sadly, in the
history of the US up to the 1970s at least, the avowed official aim of our
government and indeed of our society was to suppress any practice of
Indigenous culture whatsoever, and to let the remaining individuals  melt
away into the general population. The terrible phrase that passed for
Christian charity was "Kill the Indian, and save the man." This went on far
longer than most would like to admit, through laws that made it possible
for reservation land to be sold off bit by bit, destroying native
sovereignty, and then through a concerted effort to cancel federal
recognition for many bands and tribes, thus dissolving all remaining treaty
obligations. At the same time, mainstream US culture retained all the
Indian signifiers of local identity that had been so heavily exploited
around the time of national independence, in order to make Americans
legitimately distinct from Europeans, as though we natively came from the
so-called "new world." In the US, Indians are everywhere visible (as
mascots, place names, sports teams, historical markers, pageantry etc) and
nowhere to be seen, because we have been trained to look away from the
actual human beings. Yet they are still here, now more than ever.

Similarly but with a completely different focus, the concept of "settler
colonialism" is difficult or almost impossible for USians, because that
makes us all settler colonists, which is a condition of ontological
injustice, by which I mean an injustice that inheres to one's very being.
How can one live on this land with any sense of moral assurance when you
know that your quality as a citizen or even just as an inhabitant is
founded on a violent takeover that has never been remediated? Well, denial
of any need to even think about it is one viable option, and it's a
convenient one for all practices of domination, such as the expropriation
of the earth's so-called resources, or the exploitation of another's labor,
or the devastation of an environment which can be carelessly supercharged
with the waste products of not-even-guilty pleasures - and  this list could
go on.

Yet the impossible concept of settler colonialism could do something else
for we the colonists, something very beneficial to my way of thinking. It
could rend our subjectivity in two and help us to ask, What about my own
self and society is irreconcilable with the fact or even the possibility of
a real encounter with a native American? I say "even the possibility"
because a real encounter with oppressed people is not so easy for those
people to offer, not when you, the asker, have a white skin and the
privileges that go with it. You, or let me more honestly say I, would like
to be reconciled with all humanity, and yet often the most generous thing
two estranged  people can do for each other is to acknowledge the long
distance we would have to travel, as individuals and as societies, before
any such reconciliation could be founded in reality. To be split in two is
to open yourself to a tragic experience. It's hard to share, for sure, but
it does change the way one understands the landscape.

On thanksgiving, Brian

On Thu, Nov 22, 2018 at 12:54 PM Hans Baumann <hans at hbaumann.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thank you Brian - I greatly appreciate your insight and bringing up
> the oft-overlooked importance of simply "feeling" something. For me,
> this has been a crucial aspect of decolonizing my thinking and has
> helped inform the political transformation to which you refer. Perhaps
> the most compelling aspect of my collaborations with the Navajo and
> other Indigenous peoples has been realizing how inconvenient this
> concept of "Indigeneity" is to most Americans - regardless of their
> political affiliation. It asks very uncomfortable questions of those
> who benefit from imperial exploitation (all of us) and it implicates
> them (us) in something that has never been resolved in any meaningful
> way. Jolene Rickard spoke about this at the CCA Biennial conference in
> very compelling terms, and I think her work with the Cayuga is so
> enticing because it will fundamentally alter how citizens of upstate
> New York understand the landscape that they inhabit.
> On Tue, Nov 20, 2018 at 8:34 AM Brian Holmes
> <bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > This is a beautiful and meaningful reflection, Hans, thank you.
> >
> > One thing about empires, such as the global neoliberal empire which is
> now peaking and passing, is that their vast destructiveness provokes a
> spiritual response. Religions are born from such tragedies. And in a less
> codified way, feelings of awe before the inner workings of deep time
> reverberate from the end of one civilization, to the twilight of another.
> >
> > We have not invented any messianic religion as of yet, and our tragedy
> may go too fast for any such thing to happen. But when I travel outside
> cities seeking what can only be found in the land, I constantly encounter
> the profound indigenous awareness of what moderns call ecology. I don't
> think this is so rare for sensitive people right now. Nor has it been so
> rare since the 1960s at the very latest.
> >
> > One important thing is to turn that encounter into a politics that can
> actually do some good. Another thing is to just feel it.
> >
> > all the best on your journeys, Brian Holmes
> >
> > On Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 6:16 PM Hans Baumann <hans at hbaumann.com> wrote:
> >>
> >> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >> Thank you for the introduction Tim. The exchange that has occurred
> >> over the past several weeks has been exceptionally rewarding to follow
> >> and I would like to extend this discussion. I am specifically
> >> interested in the following question raised by Kate Brettkelly:
> >>
> >> "When we celebrate the deep time of earth, do we actively overlook the
> >> durations and experiences of indigenous peoples?"
> >>
> >> My contribution to the CCA Biennial, "The Crystalline Basement", was -
> >> in short -  an examination of geothermal energy extraction from a
> >> humanist perspective. All of the themes that Kate mentions in her post
> >> - deep time, earth history, universalist frameworks - are embedded in
> >> the science and practice of geothermal engineering. Regardless of its
> >> "green" credentials, geothermal energy extraction is guided by
> >> utilitarian concerns: how much can the system produce, is it
> >> economically viable, et cetera. Within this paradigm of extraction,
> >> "deep time" and other geological concerns have the capacity to enact
> >> the sort of erasure that Kate refers to in the above quote. At
> >> Standing Rock, Black Mesa and countless other sites, indigeneity has
> >> come into direct conflict with the desire to exploit the material
> >> remains of deep time.
> >>
> >> Over the past year, I have led a series of storytelling projects with
> >> members of the Navajo community. Early in the genesis of this project,
> >> I was introduced to the Navajo concept (and I am paraphrasing here)
> >> that narrative, identity and geography are mutualistic concepts. As
> >> one storyteller - a man named Ron Maldonado - explained it:
> >>
> >> “As people lose their stories, they lose a sense of their own being.
> >> You can’t tie yourself back to the landscape anymore … In order to
> >> know who you are, you have to know where you came from … It's a
> >> different way of seeing the world … and it’s a history that goes back
> >> to the beginning of time”
> >>
> >> Over the course of working with Ron, I came to understand "deep time"
> >> as something that grounded him and that acted as a source of his
> >> identity. Is this the same universalist concept to which Kate refers?
> >> I would argue that it is not, and I would like to suggest that
> >> concepts of deep time, earth history and the geological realm are
> >> inherently benign. Their generative capacity and their potential to
> >> erase, suppress or silence ultimately reflect the spectrum of our
> >> relationships to the nonhuman world, whether this is as a source of
> >> difference or one of connection.
> >>
> >> Best,
> >>
> >> Hans Baumann
> >>
> >>
> >> --
> >> H. Baumann
> >> 310.980.4165
> >> www.hbaumann.com
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> empyre forum
> >> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> >> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> > http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> --
> H. Baumann
> 310.980.4165
> www.hbaumann.com
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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