Event Date
Mar 10, 2016


Center for Race and Gender Thursday Forum Series

Lawful Conquest: Liberal Rights & Colonial Legacies

Indigenous Rights as a Legacy of Colonialism?
Dr. Ulia Gosart, UCLA

An investigation into the origins of a legal idea “indigeneity” reveals a genealogical lineage between contemporary indigenous rights mechanisms and the norms constructed to discipline colonial populations at the last quarter of the 19th century. The legacy of colonial policy is exhibited in a somewhat paradoxical positioning of an indigenous element in the current international legal system: a recognition of a group as eligible to benefit from this system simultaneously reestablishes this group as legally dependent upon dominating it state government. This re-enacting of the dependency status of the groups, who prior to colonization existed as self-governing legal and political units, by the very means constructed to mitigate the consequences of the colonialism makes one ask: what are the factors which led to the existence of indigeneity as a colonial legacy in the contexts of post-colonialism?

This presentation approaches this complex question by examining connections between colonial events of the last quarter of the 19th century, a particular mode of thought these events helped to engender, and implications colonial ideas of race and sovereignty on composition of the first standards focused on the rights of colonized (and later indigenous) populations. Particularly, it examines the work of leading 19th century legal theorists and founders of the discipline of international law to demonstrate

  1. how conceptions of race, sovereign state and law developed in their work  supported a vision of colonized peoples as “undeveloped” races and individuals subjected to guardianship of the “civilized nations”, and
  2. how ideas of these theorists emerged in response to the general climate of colonial conquest of the last quarter of the 19th century.

This work is a contribution to a wider investigation of the historical foundations of the contemporary regime of indigenous rights. It aspires to gain a deeper understanding of connections between establishment of indigenous rights as those of the colonized populations, dependent upon the protection of the state and international communities, and the contemporary conception of indigenous peoples as groups with a right to self-determined existence.

BIO: Ulia Gosart (Popova) holds a Ph.D. from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In her work she examines connections between social content of United Nations (U.N.) policy instruments, pertinent to the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, and indigenous political participation. Ulia’s research interests emerged from her human rights work, starting with the service to an umbrella indigenous rights organization from Russia, which she represented at the United Nations from 2004 to 2009. She organized educational events during sessions of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Rights; created a policy source working in collaboration with U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization (Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Peoples 2009). At UCLA she has been collaborating with the scholars from American Indian Studies Center; in 2010 she led a grant funded study in cooperation with the Hopi Indians of Arizona as a Principal Investigator (Protecting Cultural and Intellectual Property: The Case at Hopi). She continues her work at the Center as a Visiting Scholar (2015-16). Ulia’s publications are available online: https://ucla.academia.edu/UliaPopova.

Race and the Violence of Love: Eliminating the Native in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl 
Dr. Kit Myers, Interdisciplinary Humanities

Despite the legal protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which was passed to prevent the widespread break up of Indian families, there are many instances involving Native American children being adopted by white parents. This talk would examine the recent U.S. Supreme Court case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (2013) that awarded the custody of four-year-old “Baby Veronica” to a white adoptive couple in South Carolina instead of her Cherokee father, Dusten Brown. While the case seemingly revolved around Brown’s parent and custody status, I argue that Brown and Veronica’s “Indianness” as well as “white rights” were at the heart of the legal dispute. I draw from Patrick Wolfe’s concept of the “logic of elimination” and contend that this case illustrates how the confluence of racial difference, settler colonialism, and liberalism work in concert to privilege white adoptive parents over Indigenous parents and tribes. Together, these logics of white supremacy have again posited the former as an opposite and better future than the latter, showing how love can engender violence. In Adoptive Couple, white adoptive parents are imagined as loving and moral while Indigenous parents and tribes are represented as backwards, abusive, neglectful, and absent. In particular, the specter of “fake Indigenous” fatherhood was represented as a danger to children and potential adoptive parents. This talk reveals the unique nature of Native American adoptions but also shows how they are still similarly wedded to racialized and gendered constructions of proper family and parenthood.

BIO: Kit Myers received his Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Currently, he is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Merced. Myers has published an article in Critical Discourse Studies entitled, “‘Real Families’: The Violence of Love in New Media Adoption Discourse,” and a chapter in an edit volume called, “Creating (Un)equal Families in The Child Citizenship Act of 2000.” Myers has also contributed articles on adoption research for the online magazine, Gazillion Voices and is on the leadership team of the Adoption Museum Project.