Perilous I understand
explain to me
what is safe.
-Kim Shuck, “The End of the Drought”
Discussions about COVID-19 are quick to note that Native Americans are disproportionately impacted by the disease, with an overall incidence among American Indian and Alaskan Native people that is 3.5 times that among white individuals and the highest hospitalization and mortality rate of any group in the US. But pandemics are neither new nor unprecedented for Indigenous people in the United States. So how does the devastating impact of this disease fit into the longer historical context of immunopolitics in Indian Country? How are these connections made, why, and by whom? Does tying this pandemic to the larger histories of colonialism create greater empathy and action or present Native Americans as always already dead at the hands of diseases?
Drawing on the circulation of memes and tweets representing the impacts of past pandemics on Native Americans on social media over the past six months, this talk shows how grammar, ideology, and narrative can co-construct the past as completed and foreclosing of the present or as the opening for intervention and the possibility of our survival into post-pandemic futures.
Speaker: Jenny Davis (Anthropology and American Indian Studies, Chancellor’s Fellow for Indigenous Research)
This talk is part of HRI's Out of Isolation series. Out of Isolation examines the intersection of COVID-19 with research on race and ethnicity, class and gender, labor and poverty, access and public education, climate change and other “preconditions."