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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Un-Settling Questions: The Construction of Indigeneity and Violence Against Native Women

  • Author(s): Robertson, Kimberly Dawn
  • Advisor(s): Goeman, Mishuana R.
  • Smith, Andrea L.
  • et al.

There is growing recognition that violent crime victimization is pervasive in the lives of Native women, impacts the sovereignty of Native nations, and destroys Native communities. Numerous scholars, activists, and politicians have considered Congress' findings that violent crimes committed against Native women are more prevalent than for all other populations in the United States. Unfortunately, however, relatively all of the attention given to this topic focuses on reservation or near-reservation communities despite the fact that at least 60% of Native peoples now reside in urban areas. In Un-Settling Questions: The Construction of Indigeneity and Violence Against Native Women, I posit that this oversight is intimately connected to the ways in which urban indigeneity has been and continues to be constructed, marginalized, and excluded by the settler state and Native peoples.

Thus, heavily informed by Native feminisms, critical ethnic studies, and indigenous epistemologies, Un-Settling Questions addresses settler colonial framings of violence against Native women by decentering hegemonic narratives that position "reservation Indians" as the primary victims and perpetrators of said violence while centering an exploration of urban indigeneity in relation to this topic. I do so not to "fill a gap in the literature" but rather to analyze the ways in which particular Native peoples become figured as the objects of state attention while other Native peoples become eliminated, both figuratively and literally, through the processes of colonialism.

To accomplish this task and formulate a theoretical praxis that articulates the intersections between marginalization, colonial spatialization, identity formation, biopolitics, and gendered violence, I arrange my dissertation to address three primary concerns: the multifaceted ways in which the United States has utilized a politics of location to facilitate the biopolitical management of Native peoples, the biopolitical nature of identity construction and regulation as it manifests in liberal legislative efforts directed at Native peoples, and indigenous employment of settler colonialist frameworks. Lastly, I apply a Native feminist analytic to the prevalence and conceptualization of violence against Native women in order to present the potential for such theorizations to alter our understanding of and fight against said violence.

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