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Author Session: Mary Louise Pratt, Planetary Longings; Felicity Amaya Schaeffer, Unsettled Borders: The Militarized Science of Surveillance on Indigenous Land; Vicente L. Rafael, The Sovereign Trickster

Thu, November 3, 2:00 to 3:45pm, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Churchill B2 - 2nd Floor

Session Submission Type: Experimental Session


This author panel brings together three authors and two scholars (Neda Atanasoski and Maylei Blackwell) to discuss these authors’ published books (Duke U Press, 2022). All three books explore the entanglements of indigeneity, migration, militarization, state and non-state violence, coloniality, Spanish imperial history, and postcolonial and bordered geographies.

In Planetary Longings (2022), Mary Louise Pratt examines the forces of modernity, neoliberalism, coloniality, and indigeneity in their pre- and postmillennial forms, reflecting on the crisis of futurity that accompanies the millennial turn in relation to environmental disaster and to new forms of thinking it has catalyzed. She turns to 1990s Latin American vernacular culture, literary fiction, and social movements, which simultaneously registered neoliberalism’s devastating effects and pursued alternate ways of knowing and living. Tracing the workings of colonialism alongside the history of anticolonial struggles and indigenous mobilizations in the Americas, Pratt analyzes indigeneity as both a key index of coloniality, neoliberal extraction, and ecological destruction, and a source for alternative modes of thought and being. Ultimately, Pratt demonstrates that the changes on either side of the millennium have catalyzed new forms of world-making and knowledge-making in the face of an unknowable and catastrophic future.

In Unsettled Borders: The Militarized Science of Surveillance on Sacred Indigenous Land (2022), Felicity Amaya Schaeffer examines the ongoing settler colonial war over the US-Mexico border from the perspective of Apache, Tohono O’odham, and Maya who fight to protect their sacred land. Schaeffer traces the scientific and technological development of militarized border surveillance across time and space: from Spanish colonial lookout points in Arizona and Mexico; to the Indian wars when the US cavalry hired Native scouts to track Apache fleeing into Mexico; to the occupation of the Tohono O’odham reservation; and the recent launch of robotic bee swarms. Labeled “Optics Valley,” Arizona builds on a global history of violent dispossession and containment of Native peoples and migrants by branding itself as a profitable hub for surveillance. Schaeffer reverses the logic of borders by turning to Indigenous sacredsciences, or ancestral land-based practices that are critical to reversing the ecological and social violence of surveillance, extraction, and occupation.

In The Sovereign Trickster (2022) Vicente L. Rafael offers a prismatic view of the age of Rodrigo Duterte in the contemporary Philippines. Framing Duterte as a trickster figure who boasts, jokes, terrorizes, plays the victim, and instills terror, Rafael weaves together topics ranging from the drug war, policing, and extrajudicial killings to neoliberal citizenship, intimacy, and photojournalism. He is less concerned with defining Duterte as a fascist, populist, warlord, and traditional politician than he is with examining what Duterte does: how he rules, the rhetoric of his humor, his use of obscenity to stoke fear, and his projection of masculinity and misogyny. Locating Duterte's rise within the context of counterinsurgency, neoliberalism, and the history of electoral violence, while drawing on Foucault’s biopower and Mbembe’s necropolitics, Rafael outlines how Duterte weaponizes death to control life. By diagnosing the symptoms of the authoritarian imaginary as it circulates in the Philippines, Rafael provides a complex account of Duterte’s regime and the social conditions that allow him to enjoy continued support.

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