Thursday, November 29, 2007

Voicing Indigeneity

There have been a number of developments and projects in the Ethnic Studies Department at UCSD over the past few years that have made this conference possible and inevitable. One of the primary projects was the Voicing Indigeneity podcast. The podcast began in October of 2006 as a conversation between Madelsar Tmetuchl Ngiraingas (from Belau), Angela Morrill (Modoc-Klamath) and myself, Michael Lujan Bevacqua (Chamorro from Guam) about the precarious place of indigenous people, their histories, struggles and dreams in Ethnic Studies. Over the next year, we completed a total of 18 podcasts, on a variety of issues and even with some special guests from our department. For a list of all the podcasts, please click here.

Below is the "declaration" through which we articulated why we were doing the podcast and what our hopes were.


Alii, el mor kemiu el rokui,
Hafa adai, mañelu-hu yan mañainå-hu,
Hello, friends and family,

Indigenous peoples and their struggles are often diminished or dismissed today as being either racist, parochial, essentialist or just too plain particular. As the majority of the world’s population is brought together in more and more tangible ways through ”international” and “transnational” narratives, it might be expected then that indigenous peoples, most of whom exist “intra-nationally,” or as nations within nations, might be dismissed as inconsequential or kind of distracting from the big picture and more universal concerns. In the United States today, terms such as sovereignty, decolonization and self-determination, which are common in the politics of indigenous peoples, are either completely foreign, or distasteful in the way they echo broken promises of failed revolutions and the dangers of modern utopianism.

In most academic disciplines we find a difficulty in seeing the importance of reckoning with indigenous struggles or epistemologies, except as just another ethnic group to be incorporated, an anachronism to be collected and catalogued, or colorful exceptions, footnotes on modernity’s journey forward.

We, the three “voices” of the Voicing Indigeneity podcast and blog are all graduate students in the Ethnic Studies department at the University of California, San Diego, and in different ways, both in and outside of our department often find ourselves entangled in the limits and resistances mentioned above. Over the past year, the three of us have had intense, inspiring and occasionally productive conversations about the difficulties and possibilities for articulating concepts such as sovereignty or decolonization in an Ethnic Studies framework.

Our decision to start to record and disseminate these conversations stems from our belief that indigenous studies and epistemological work, far from being racist, limited or essentialist, is in fact very global and holds important potential for reshaping academic disciplines such as Ethnic Studies. In our short time here at UCSD, we have already begun to see important of shifts of vision, and so we voice our critiques, precisely because we believe in the critical potential for the Ethnic Studies project. We feel that it is unfortunate that most potential indigenous scholars today do not see our Ethnic Studies department or the larger discipline as places where they can produce work which is relevant to issues of decolonization and sovereignty, and want to change this perception.

We therefore invite you to visit our website, and download our podcasts, which range from serious to silly, frustrating to therapeutic. We also welcome you to leave comments, or join our conversation by emailing us with critiques, questions, suggestions and support at

Struggles for sovereignty and acts of decolonization are taking place all the time, at multiple levels attached to different dreams and nightmares. Both with these conversations and within these conversations you will find a number of ours.

Ko meral mesulang
Si Yu’us Ma’ase para i tiempon-miyu
Thank you

Madelsar Tmetuchl Ngiraingas (Belauan – Beliliou, Orreor, Irrai)
Angela Morrill (Modoc-Klamath)
Michael Lujan Bevacqua (Chamorro, familian Kabesa/Bittot)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Conference Mission Statement

Conference Mission Statement:

As scholars engaged in critical social justice work, we are constantly engaged in conversations about how to push the limits of the Ethnic Studies project so that it may be used more productively in addressing the wide and varied number of student and faculty interests within the department. Although the growing interest in postcolonial and indigenous studies is exciting and holds great potential, we feel that there is an urgent need to learn beyond the caricatured and narrow perceptions that have cast these emerging disciplines as specialized fields of knowledge.

It is our contention that in addressing issues of violence, oppression and justice - whether they be local, global or transnational - ethnic studies, indigenous studies and postcolonial studies have a lot to offer each other. While the historical subjects of these disciplines might appear varied and distinct, the central issues at hand in all cases include issues of power, violence, imperialism and sovereignty. Moreover, we believe that by talking in disciplinary conjunction we may be able to think through identities and issues that yet lie at the margins of ethnic, postcolonial and indigenous studies - such as those related to statelessness, refugees, language, etc.

In organizing this conference, it is our hope to bring together faculty, students and activists involved in critical political-intellectual work to think through new and radical strategies that address contemporary issues of justice in less isolated, more collaborative, ways.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Conference Committee

Maile Arvin - 1st Year
Michael Lujan Bevacqua - 4th Year
Long Bui - 3rd Year
Rashne Limki - 2nd Year
Angela Morrill - 3rd Year
Stevie Ruiz - 1st Year
Ayako Sahara - 2nd Year
Trangdai Tranguyen - 1st Year
Ma Vang - 3rd Year


Just a test to get this blog/website started.

This will eventually be the website for the conference "Postcolonial Futures in a Not Yet Postcolonial World: Locating the Intersections of Ethnic, Indigenous and Postcolonial Studies" which will be held at the University of California, San Diego on March 7-9, 2008.