Maehkōn Ahpēhtesewen is run by Rowland “Ena͞emaehkiw” Keshena Robinson, a member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin. He currently lives and works in the Gdoo-Naaganinaa Territory: the traditional lands of the Attiwonderon, Anishinaabeg, Rotinonshón:ni and Wyandot People. He is currently a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of Waterloo. He writes, works, and theorizes from a perspective decolonial abolitionist communism.
His dissertation, entitled Settler Colonialism + Native Ghosts: An Autoethnographic Account of the Imaginarium of Late Capitalist/Colonialist Storytelling, is a kind of speculative auto/ethnography that examines the formation and function of Indianness within the biopolitical, visual, ontological, narrative, and affective imaginings of the northern bloc of settler colonialism (the United States and Canada). This work charts his experiences through these corridors of settler power over the course of his own lived experiences as a diasporic, urban and liminaly enrolled Native person. His work situates this journey within the structures of settler colonialism, in particular the 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, or the Colonial Order of Things, and centres Indigenous resurgence, decolonization, and a politics of refusal.
While his politics are always open, and have evolved over the years, and will continue to do so, today they are informed by, and deeply concerned with, in no particular order of importance:
- Settler colonialism as a distinct modality of power, which functions under a logic of elimination towards the annihilation of Natives peoples, and their replacement by a settler population, rather than exploitation; how this 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 State and civil society policy and practice under its broad programme of anti-Native violence, including the biogenic and cultural extensions of frontier homicide;
- Latter-day communist currents, and the debates therein, generally labelled as ultra-left, including but not limited to contemporary communization, postautonomia, and variants of postmaoism, though properly prioritized and subordinated to decolonial and abolitionist concerns and theorizations;
- The question of gender and its decolonization; the gendered division of labour, both domestically and internationally; the role of gendered and sexual violence in colonial domination; the suppression of non-western 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, 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 United States and Canada); 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 racialized peoples;
- Questions of political economy within the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system, such as the informationalization/postmodernization of the economy; the changing nature of labour and the broad shifts towards forms of immaterial labour under guises of informational, affective, communicative, and cultural labour; and the continuing relevance of the international division and stratification of labour and First World parasitism;
- The dynamics of surplus population and surplus capital, and their effects on capital and class under current arrangements of settler colonialism, antiblackness, and post-Fordist neoliberal capitalism;
- Theories of the Law, State, and sovereignty, influenced variously, and contradictorily, by Lenin, Pashukanis, Althusser, and Agamben, in particular how the Law emerges through the state of exception and the production of bare life; and 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;
- Biopolitics, understood as a political rationality which takes the administration of life and populations as its subject, and biopower as the means/way in which biopolitics is is put to work in society; the question of when is life grievable?; and the notion that there is a flip-side to biopolitics, which Mbembe calls necropolitics, in which power is also defined via the ability to deal out unmournable, ungrievable death;
- Capitalist and colonialist formations of “race,” as racializing assemblages and traces of colonial history, and how they distort theorizations of bare life and also those of the relations between capital and labour; how they functions as modes of social exclusion and population control and governance in what Wacquant calls the “deadly symbiosis” of when ghetto and prison meet and mesh; how these dynamics result in material benefits for those deemed to be white in excess of mere “petty racial benefits”; 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, capitalist realism, hauntology, and simulation, and how they 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, as well as the understanding of them as such;
- Contemporary Marxist articulations of value-form theory, drawing from the heterdox (and eventually purged) Soviet economist Isaak Illich Rubin, 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;
- Perhaps contradictorily, the early-Baudrillard’s critical semiotics influenced extension of the Marxist theory of value, which builds on Marx’s own dialectic between use and exchange-value, with the addition and elaboration of notions of sign-value and symbolic-value;
- The coloniality 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 hegemony and ideology, in particular the line of thinking that emanates from Althusser, and which takes up Lacan’s distinction between reality and “the Real,” including Chantalle Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Fredric Jameson, and and members of the Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis; 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 Badiou, as fundamentally epistemically western and colonial, and the basis of what Mignolo critiques as “global designs.”
- Black feminist, 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 reinscribes 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 counterhumanisms and the new forms of being human.