Borders of Kinship: Species/Race/Indigeneity

Thursday, May 23, 2013
Communications 120

Bringing the Land to the Fight: Biotechnology and Hawaiian Ontology
Noenoe Silva (Political Science, University of Hawai’i, Manoa) and Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller (Social Sciences, Public Policy Center, University of Hawai’i, Manoa) examine current political struggles of native Hawaiians over the increasing presence of biotechnology corporations in Hawai’i. Biotechnology depends upon conditions that facilitate genetically modified organism (GMO) research and profit from ever-increasing production of genetically modified organisms. Legal regimes of property recognize new organisms that can be controlled, sold, and exploited; analogously, multiculturalist policies recreate identity through denial of indigeneity, refusing land claims by indigenous people that would interfere with biotechnology industries. This impacts Hawaiians’ ability to survive on the land and to (re)create a Hawaiian world, which would include native species, many of them kino lau or native deities. We consider Hawaiian ideas of kalo, for example, as kin and sacred anc!  estor, and other plants, animals, and natural elements as kino lau or body forms of deities, as crucial elements in the struggle against further colonization and towards a resurgence of native lifeways.

Indigenous Approaches to Critical Animal Studies and the New Materialisms?
Kimberly Tallbear (Environmental Sciences, University of California, Berkeley) highlights what indigenous thought has to offer academic theorizing as new critical fields work to dismantle hierarchies in the relationships of “westerners” with their non-human others. For example, “multi-species ethnography” now studies humans and their relations with nonhuman-beings such as dogs, bears, cattle, monkeys, bees, mushrooms, and microorganisms. But the starting points of these inquiries can only partially contain indigenous standpoints. Indigenous peoples never forgot that nonhumans are agential beings engaged in social relations that profoundly shape human lives. Moreover, their non-human others may not even be understood as living. “Objects” and “forces” such as stones, thunder, or stars are known within our ontologies to be sentient and knowing persons. Indigenous approaches also critique settler colonialism and its management of non-human others, linking violenc!  e against animals to violence against particular humans historically accorded less-than-human or animal status.

Presented as part of B/ordering Violence: Boundaries, Gender, Indigeneity in the Americas, a John E. Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Cultures generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and co-sponsored by the Latin American & Caribbean Studies program, the Jackson School of International Studies, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and the Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, & Sexuality (WISER).
For more on the B/ordering Violence Seminar Series, visit and

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About mjj22

Current research project The Multi Dimensions of Blackness: Cultural Hegemony in the US and Abroad I am interested in how the concept of race and identity plays a role in how we perceive difference. Moreover, I would like to investigate how colonial powers such as the United States have shaped ideas of race and identity while maintaining colonial rule abroad. This past summer (2012) I was a participant in the Summer Institute in the Art & Humanities. This opportunity allowed me to explore questions concerning race and representation. Why were my peers studying abroad and returning with the same preconceived notions of developing countries? Why were my college classmates representing people and places in the Global South as underdeveloped, religious radicals, uneducated, disease stricken, and confrontational? These questions have driven my interest in globalization, power, borders, and how a variety of people and institutions located in "the West" represent the Global South.

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