My name is Rowland “Ena͞emaehkiw” Keshena Robinson. I am a member 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, Rotinonshón:ni and Wyandot Peoples, also known as so-called “southern Ontario.” I have lived in this region off-and-on for most of my adult life, where I have been involved in Palestinian and Black community solidarity work, as well as various Native community works and projects. Most of this time I have been a student, though this is now behind me, having recently completed a Ph.D in Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of Waterloo. As of the impending Winter 2020 semester I will be teaching in the Department of Political Science as well as the Indigenous Studies Program at UW, both of which I have taught for before, and which is subject to term-by-term change. I have also previously taught in the Department of Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, and also the UW Department of Sociology & Legal Studies.
My dissertation work was entitled Settler Colonialism + Native Ghosts: An Autoethnographic Account of the Imaginarium of Late Capitalist/Colonialist Storytelling. My work attempted to give a Native, decolonial, and autoethnographic account of the genealogical formation and function of Nativeness within biopolitical formations and racializing assemblages, as well as the visual, ontological, narrative, and affective imaginings of the northern bloc of settler colonialism (the United States and Canada). As an autoethnographic work it centred my own lived and embodied experiences, as well as the experiences of my kin, to chart the corridors of settler-colonial power and knowledge production, in particular my experiences as a diasporic, urban and liminal Native person, and the very real, and at times overwhelming, affective burdens that come with such a positionality.
In doing so my work sought to situate my journey within the structures of settler colonialism, and in particular against what the late Patrick Wolfe referred to as the “logic of elimination,” as well as what many scholars have identified and referred to as the “Coloniality of Power” and the “Colonial Order of Things.” Importantly, it worked further to centre Indigenous resurgence, insurgence, decolonization, self-determination, and a politics of refusal. In thinking through in particular the centering of practices of refusal, I attempted to not only propose, but also actively engage a kind of methodological-pedagogical-praxiological movement of autoethnographic refusal, where the work began its first of two narrative movements by charting Native damage narratives within frames of political ontology, biopolitics and racializing assemblages, visuality, and community loss and disruption, before moving towards actively no longer telling those stories. The second narrative movement moved then from telling of my own, and my kin’s, stories of damage under settler-colonial regimes of power/knowledge, towards theorizing about Native damage narratives, most especially why they are so readily consumed within digital, filmic, literary, and academic settings and the economies of late capitalism/colonialism. This latter aspect is what I refer to as the imaginarium of late capitalist/colonialist storytelling.
The ultimate point of my work was to ask fundamentally onto-existential and narrative questions about Natives through frames of savageness, wildness, temporality, geography. However, while much ontological analysis and theorization produced within the (post)modern academy is, to a greater or lessor degree, detached from historical, sociological, anthropological, and political economic modes of analysis, and thus becomes, again to a greater or lessor degree, non-materialist and, less generously, unfalsifiable, I always attempt to maintain a fundamental link between ontological, existential, and literary modes with the materiality of settler colonialism and the coloniality of power.
The blog exists in large part as an ethical and political practice of refusing to hide from the people I write for, and of hording knowledge and theory away behind institutional paywalls. Against that academic tendency I prefer to engage in modes of public writing, almost certainly a detriment to my prospects of long-term academic work, as I do not seek, as a primary practice, publication in academic venues. In the final analysis, I 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. I do not write with the goal of making a future in academia, an institution which is fundamentally an arm of State domination and State policy. Everything I do, every piece of writing, every moment spent theorizing, is in some small way meant to further the goals of decolonization, communism, and abolition. There can no better peer-reviewers for this work than other Native, colonized, and oppressed peoples engaged in the day-to-day struggle for a better world. All that I write, including that which may at some point appear in this or that journal, will always be made available, for free—no paywalls, no patreons, no subscriptions—on this blog.
Finally, I am, and write from the perspective of, a nonstatist decolonial communist, antifascist, and someone who genuinely believes in revolution. I reject reformism, electoralism, and the politics of structural adjustment, reconciliation, and State recognition. I attempt always to push back against the liberal, institutional and petty-bourgeois appropriation and expropriation of the language of “decolonization” as a disguise for “indigenized” assimilation into the political framework of the northern bloc of settler colonialism (the United States and Canada). While my politics are always open, and have always evolved over the years today they are informed by, and deeply concerned with, in no particular order of importance:
- The understanding of settler colonialism as a distinct modality of power; how it functions under a logic of elimination and as a form of structured dispossession, deracination, and desacration rather than as the traditionally theorized form of colonialism as a complex mesh of (racialized) labor exploitation under “foreign” power, and defined by both the dependence on the wage and the threat of direct violence; how this means that while the proletarianization of Native people has and does occur, as well as the broader disciplining of us to the capitalist market and private property, ultimately Native labour is superfluous to the accumulation of capital and political economic development of the colonial State, and thus it is not proletarianization, but rather by, through, and in the question of land—not merely as a kind of territorial fixity, but as a system of reciprocal kinships, relationalities, and obligations—that Native anti-capitalism and decolonization is animated; how it continues today as a structure, rather than an onto-historical event; and how it mobilizes a multimodal array of, at times, seemingly contradictory forms of Ideological and Repressive State Apparatuses, including Civil Society, policy and practice under its broad programme of anti-Native violence, including biogenic and cultural extensions of frontier homicide;
- Latter-day Marxist communist currents, and the debates therein, heterogenuously grouped under the labelling of ‘communizing’ or ‘communization’; these are “Marxisms” generally opposed to the pragmatism, statism, vanguardism, and current stagnation of what I refer to as “Late Leninism,” and which reject the view of revolution as an event where workers take power followed by a period of “socialist” transition (‘socialization’), instead conceiving the revolution itself as a communizing movement characterized by immediate communist measures (the free distribution of goods, etc.), and which abolishes all capitalist categories of the value-form, exchange, money, commodities, the existence of separate enterprises, the state, the abstraction of life into the two alienated spheres of work-time and leisure-time, wage labour, the working-class itself, and the material basis for counter-revolution;
- Non-teleological and non-determinist, radicalized, spatialized, and decolonized dialectics; dialectics which combats both conservative Hegelianism and traditional Marxism; dialectics without determinism, without messianic agents, without the presumption of euro-western science, and without fatalism; dialectics with a particular eye towards disrupting the eurocentric pursuit of abstract universals and ‘the Dialectic’; forms of systematic dialectics which treat synchronically the articulation of categories inter-related within an existent concrete whole or totality;
- Epistemologically, the critique of Marxism as a universally and transhistorically valid positive science which stands above and outside the social forms and forms of consciousness which it takes as its objects of analysis; also, the understanding that science, taken to be the structured and systematic production of knowledge, is something that, though not always institutionalized to the same degree, all societies have, or do, engage in; further how the discourse of science within eurowestern modernity, including that of Marxism, tends to erase local noneuropean scientific traditions, reclassifying them as folklore, superstition, and culturalist mystification, reifying a global colonial epistemological hierarchy (what some would call a “political economy of knowledge”).
- The question of gender and its decolonization; the gendered division of labour, both domestically and internationally; the central importance of reproductive labour; the role of gendered and sexual violence in colonial domination and the sustaining of capitalism, including the patriarchal domination of women through the european witch-hunts, suppression and expropriation of women’s knowledge, and colonialism as one of the four founding genocides/epistemicides of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system; the suppression of nonwestern systems of gender that exceed the eurowestern binaries of man/woman; and the genocidal intersection today of colonization, racialization, and cisheteropatriarchy which converge on the bodies of Native, Black, and nonwhite women, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, trans, and queer people;
- The analysis of contemporary decolonial, abolitionist, and communist struggles and movements, in particular those within the current northern bloc of settler colonialism; the question of inter-movement coalition, and how the drive for white allies implies an implicit incapacity to act on the part of colonized and oppressed peoples;
- The continuing relevance of theories of capitalist-imperialism, parasitism, the labour aristocracy, and the international division and stratification of labour in understanding the structure of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system; how the redistribution of income derived from the super-exploitation of the colonies has allowed for the amelioration of class conflict in the wealthy capitalist countries, and how the super-wage has meant the final disappearance of the white working class as any meaningful vehicle for communist struggle, a political deadening which began during the early extension of franchise and settler forms of colonialism; and the connection between the super-wage, the amelioration of class conflict, and the pervasive national, racial and cultural chauvinism of the core capitalist nations of the world-economy, which renders the latter as not primarily attributable to merely questions of ‘false class consciousness’, hegemony, or ideology, but significantly as concentrated expressions of the major social strata’s shared economic interest in the exploitation and repression of the colonies, semi-colonies, and neocolonies;
- Theories of the law, State, and sovereignty about how the abolition of the State and governance of capital must necessarily also include the abolition of the categories of bourgeois justice, the carceral and juridical apparatuses, and anything which can reintroduce the ideology of such;
- Capitalist and colonialist formations of “race” as racializing assemblages and traces of colonial history, and how they distort the relations between capital and labour; how they function as modes of social exclusion and population control and governance; how these dynamics result in material benefits for those deemed to be white in excess of mere “petty racial benefits” or “white privilege”; and how structural relations to violence for certain populations, which race naturalizes, often precede, and most certainly exceed, proletarian and communist programmatics, broadly conceived;
- The contemporary problems of postmodernity as the late capitalist subsumption of all other forms of thought and forms-of-life under its cultural and economic logic—roughly definable as the loss of connection to history and the transformation of the past into emptied-out stylizations and pastiche that are commodifiable and consumable; how this and the related phenomena of simulacra, simulation, spectacle, and cultural hauntology relate to, inform, and distort not only the cultural mode of late capitalism/colonialism/liberalism, but also the memory of the failures and impasses of 20th-century revolutions and revolutionary movements, the understandings of them as such, and how it is that we can imagine new futures that move beyond the past;
- Contemporary Marxist articulations of value-form theory, understood as the perspective that it is the development of the forms of exchange that are the prime determinant of the capitalist economy rather than the content regulated by it, and in which capitalism is understood as a method of regulating labor by giving it the social form of an exchangeable commodity, and not a disguised or mystified system that is otherwise similar in content to other class-based societies; further, how this understanding, along with those of the communization milieu, holds that revolution cannot simply be the trasformation of the means of ownership and distribution—whether as a Leninist party-state or a syndicalist/councilist decentralized federation—as that would merely mark a new iterative form of capitalism; subsequently the understanding that models of state-socialism are forms of state-capitalism;
- The early-Baudrillard’s critical semiotics influenced extension of the Marxist theory of value, which builds on Marx’s dialectic between use and exchange-value, with the addition and elaboration of notions of sign-value and symbolic-value; how the rule of the sign distorts and obscures the dynamics of the political economy, though without rendering those dynamics no longer existent; how postmodern forms of signification embed us within a system of objects in which we ourselves become as objects;
- The coloniality of power, also called the colonial matrix of power, understood as constitutive of, and thus inseparable from, modernity, and which can be broadly thought of as those pillars and interrelated spheres that define culture, labour, intersubjective relations, knowledge production/epistemology, and ontological questions and concepts such as the nature of the human and the naturalization of life and the permanent regeneration of the living (e.g. the invention of the concept of “nature” etc.) well beyond the strict limits, spatially or temporally, of colonial administrations;
- The continued relevance of theories of ideology, in particular the line of thinking that emanates from Althusser, and which takes up Lacan’s distinction between reality and “the Real,” in which ideology is the representation of the subject’s Imaginary relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence; additionally Raymond Williams’ distinctions regarding “residual,” “emergent,” and “dominant” ideological formations;
- Questions of decolonization and decoloniality, the former of which relates to the question of land and power, as Native oppression and resistance to that oppression is informed by, and through, the question of land, while the latter, though inherently tied to the materiality of decolonization, is a critique from the position of subalternized and silenced knowledges of modernity/coloniality, rather than from Marxism or postmodernism’s eurocentric critique of euromodernity; additionally, decoloniality as a critique of universality and abstract universals, as pursued by most Marxists, as fundamentally epistemically western and colonial, and the basis of what Mignolo critiques as “global designs;”
- The affective dynamics of late capitalism/late colonialism, how trying to live a life entirely subsumed by this structures, where death hangs in the air like a persistent rumour, where everyday life has become colonized, and which has degraded even our very ability to sleep, generates a sense of “feeling bad,” despair, and anxiety; how it is customary within the euro-western biomedical and therapeutic models to attribute these solely to individual traumas and biochemical disorders (though certainly in no way dismissing the roles that these play, much less their reality), functioning as master narratives to displace social problems onto the sphere of the personal; and how the “privatization of stress” in truth fundamentally reveals the deep affective dysfunctional and pathological nature of capitalist and colonialist society;
- Black feminist and radical ecological, decolonial, and Native theories of the human as the theological, and later secular and scientific, subject of western, liberal-bourgeois humanism in the form of Man; how the onto-structural ordering of Man necessarily stratifies the biological species of Homo sapiens into full humans (Man), not-quite-humans and nonhumans; how the latter categories designate capacity to be exposed to structural and physical violence; how it inscribes and re-inscribes euro-western and euromodern ontologies that institute binaries and boundaries between the human and our other-than-human kin; and finally the necessary abolition of Man through decolonial struggle and the creation of counter- and de-humanisms as new forms and ways of being human;