My name is Rowland Keshena Robinson. I am of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, though I grew up in Bermuda, on the outer fringes of the anglo-Caribbean, and currently live and work in the Gdoo-Naaganinaa Territory: the traditional lands of the Attiwonderon, Anishinaabeg, and Rotinonshón:ni, a geographic region today also known as southern Ontario. I know that I am far from the first Menominee person to live amongst our Anishinaabeg kin, however it is in an act of good kinship that I recognize that I am a guest on this territory, and that I owe much of my intellectual and personal development to the time I have spent here and with the Anishinaabeg and Rotinonshón:ni peoples of this region.
I first moved to Canada in 2005 to pursue my undergraduate studies in the humanistic and social scientific disciplines of anthropology and sociology, which I eventually transitioned into a Masters Degree in public issues anthropology, my project for which examined the distance (the “gulf” to repeat my terminology of the time) that existed then, and which in many ways exists now, between Native academics, who spend much time in analysing and theorizing about our social, cultural, political, and economic situation, and grassroots Native activists who are directly engaged in the day-to-day struggle for justice, whatever that may mean to individual actors.
Following this I my education to return to Bermuda, where I spent time unemployed due to injury, working in a liquor store as a sales assistant, and finally with a concrete company. Eventually though in 2014, seeking a significant change in my life, I returned to Canada and re-entered the academy to obtain my doctorate in sociology. Following the completion of that I have moved onto the other side of the most significant education related binary. I now teaching, in a contract capacity, largely within the disciplines of political science and indigenous studies, though with occasional forays into global studies, legal studies, and social development studies.
What I Write About
Within these disciplines my interests are somewhat diverse and not always congruous or overlapping. Most immediately my work, as it developed out of my doctoral studies, concerns itself with the question of Native identity, though I think it is more accurate to render it as a question of “Nativeness.” Within this I consider questions ranging from formal state and legal definitions of Nativeness and Native self-conceptions of such, but also more abstract ones, such as the form and function of Native cultural production, what it means to be “authentically” Native, the ontological status of Nativeness within North America, the function of Nativeness as sign, and the consumptive role of Nativeness within settler-colonial ideological and narrative circulations.
Moving past this, but still connected to what some call “Indigenous Studies” I have also found myself concerned with questions of sovereignty and the Law, dispossession and territoriality, race and racialization, and the political economy of settler colonialism.
Additionally, outside of all of this I have maintained for most of my career an interest in Marxist theory and philosophy. While this has waxed and waned over the years, today it remains in the form of an interest in critical theory, particularly in the form of both older and newer iterations of what some call “western Marxism,” and with world-systems analysis and other Marxist, post-Marxist, and Marxist-adjacent examinations of the nature of the world-economy and the world-system. Today though I have come to increasingly mix these with non-Marxist, some of them decidedly so, theoretical and philosophical interests, including semiotics/semiology, deconstruction and literary criticism, phenomenology, queer theory, settler colonial studies and decolonial thought as it has emerged in recent years from Latin America, the West Indies, Africa and the African Diaspora, and Native North America.
In so far as these things come together and enter my thought, writing, research, and general practice unevenly I would say that my overarching project is one of decolonial, Native, critical ideological analysis and critique.
About this Project
Regarding this internet project—which is part blog, part self-published journal, part exercise of public self-writing and scholarly experimentation—”Maehkōn Ahpēhtesewen” is a Menominee linguistic construction that can rather simply be translated as “Red Power.” In this simple sense one can choose to perhaps read it as a representation-in-kind of an older Native politic, that of the Red Power Movement. However, while there is certainly that kind of aesthetic linkage, as I said, that would be a somewhat simplistic translation. “Ahpēhtesewen”, the key word in the name, in omāēqnomenēweqnāēsen, the Menominee language, does not mean power in that kind of strictly, or simplistically, political sense, in the sense that politics, much less “the political” is meant within eurowestern and euromodern thought, and indeed I think to translate it in such a way is to do the concept a disservice. Rather, “Ahpēhtesewen” is more akin to medicinal or to spiritual power. The first part of the term, “ahpēht,” comes from “ahpēc-” which means “so far, so long, to such a degree, to that degree,” while the latter part of the word, “esewen,” has no easy translatable meaning into the English language, but is a suffix used for words that indicate animacy, aliveness, or movement. Thus, “Ahpēhtesewen” might be better translated as something which means to be alive, or to be lively, in an intense, expansive, or, also, powerful kind of way. Thus, paired with the word “Maehkōn,” which quite simply refers to the colour red, here taken in the older racial-political sense to refer to Native North American people, (the so-called “Red Indians”), then “Maehkōn Ahpēhtesewen” might mean to live life intensely for Native people.
And this then moves us into the question of the intentionality behind this project. To speak of that then, this project exists in large part as an ethical, pedagogical, methodological, and praxiological commitment of refusing to hide away from the people I write for, and of hording knowledge and theory away behind institutional paywalls, subscriptions, and tuition fees. Against that academic tendency, which tends to inflect even the most critical work, I prefer to engage in modes of public writing, and do not seek, as a primary practice, publication in academic venues. That said, I recognize that, to a significant degree, the path that I have chosen in life, means that I must play the academic game of publishing, and thus this project may often be used a platform of publicly drafting works that I intend for future academic publication.
However, I ultimately do not write with an academic audience in mind; as those I want to reach and dialogue with, even if my style and tone may much of the time reflect my academic training. As such, everything that I do, every piece of writing, every moment spent mulling over ideas or theorizing, is in some small way meant to further the goal of better, freer, more equal and just world. There can no better peer-reviewers for my work and thinking than those I write for. Thus, all that I write, including that which may at some point appear in this or that journal, or in an edited volume, or on some other academic platform will always be made available, for free—no paywalls, no patreons, no subscriptions—here.