Excerpt: On March 17, 1775, Richard Henderson procured a deed from several Cherokee chiefs for lands that included more than half of modern-day Kentucky. However, questions persisted over the legality of the treaty within the laws of the British Empire and the right of the Cherokee to sell the land. Nevertheless, Henderson’s Transylvania Company quickly moved to settle the land. On May 23, 1775, delegates from four communities, Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, St. Asaph, and Boiling Spring, convened to discuss the creation of a local government. The spring of 1775 served as a critical moment in the history of Kentucky, which Henderson named Transylvania. Transylvania’s existence provoked as many conflicts over ownership as it tried to solve. Although Henderson treated with the Cherokee, other Indian groups viewed themselves as the rightful possessors of that fertile hunting ground. The royal government of Virginia insisted Henderson cease his “illegal designs.” For Henderson, clear political borders existed because he believed in Transylvania’s validity, but few other political bodies or groups agreed.

Transylvania’s short-lived history illustrates the uncertainty inherent in studying polities of unclear legitimacy and contested authority. Conceptualizing Kentucky before its dominance by whites leads one to consider an important question central to historical analysis. What is the best way to analyze spaces of cross-cultural conflict and competing sovereignties? North American historians who focus on early America usually rely on competing terms, frontier and borderland, to describe these contested zones, but it is time to recognize the gradual coalescing of these once-distinct interpretive frameworks. For that reason, the history of Kentucky in the second half of the eighteenth century serves as an example to underscore the limitations of traditional frontier and borderland interpretations and formalize the union of frontier and borderland studies into frontier-borderlands.

Historians have debated the terminology used to define the American West—including early Kentucky—since at least 1893, when University of Wisconsin professor Frederick Jackson Turner first presented his paper, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. In fact, it was one of Turner’s graduate students, Herbert Eugene Bolton, who prominently rejected his advisor’s narrow conception of the nation-state and promoted an alternative to the frontier thesis. Bolton’s vision of American history did not merely echo the history of Anglo-Americans but called for a story of “Greater America,” a hemispheric narrative that included Indian, European, and, we can imagine, African influences working with and competing against each other. Based on concepts articulated by Turner and Bolton, historical analysis diverged over the twentieth century.


Abstract: From 1863 to 1865, one hundred and thirty-six Anishinaabe men served in Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters. In order to understand why these Odawa, Ojibwe, and Boodewaadamii men fought in the Civil War, this project examines changes in Anishinaabe masculinity, leadership, and status from Pontiac’s War (1763) through the early 1900s. Anishinaabe history disrupts the dominant narrative about indigenous peoples during the nineteenth century centered on removal. Military records, missionary correspondence, battlefield memoirs, and family letters suggest that Christianity and service in the Civil War provided some Ojibwe and Odawa men with multiple strategies to acquire or sustain leadership positions, maintain autonomy, and remain in their homelands. They claimed the rights and responsibilities of male citizenship—voting, owning land, and serving in the army—while also actively preserving their status as Indians. This history complicates the binary of black and white racial categories that dominates many discussions of the Civil War and citizenship. Anishinaabe men joined the Union army due to the influence of social and political networks, as well as religiously-inspired antislavery ideology. While they shared reasons for enlisting with white and African American soldiers, they had particularly Anishinaabe motivations as well. Their history—significant encounters with missionaries; their warrior past, including the not-so-distant War of 1812; their treaty relationship with the United States; and their conceptions of alliance and reciprocal relationships—affected decisions to enlist. From the beginning of the war, they were marked as different. Many reports concerning Company K glossed over the soldiers’ individual identities in favor of depictions of “Indianness.” After the war, the Anishinaabeg took advantage of U.S. pension officials’ preconceptions of Native peoples to negotiate payments. Anishinaabe testimonies also illuminate relationships and living practices that suggest the ways in which parts of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula remained an Anishinaabe place after the Civil War, one that often dealt with settler colonialism through negotiation. Embracing the military and its bureaucracy for indigenous purposes, the Anishinaabeg made claims to resources and recognition through their identities as veterans, family members, and Indians. 


Abstract: Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, this ethnographic study examines the phenomenon of eviction within the context of the post-apartheid constitutional right to housing and legal protections against evictions. Rather than view evictions as a singular event, evictions are treated as a lived experience intrinsically linked to the historical, political, and economic life of inner city Johannesburg and more broadly South Africa. I address how South Africa’s constitution creates both a platform for housing advocates to contest evictions and also allows property owners to evict tenants. To analyze evictions, I collected data through participant observation, media sources, archives, interviews, and legal documents. Working at the intersection of urban anthropology and contemporary studies of race and space, I begin by linking the historical process of land dispossession as a result of settler colonialism to current urban formations. I then analyze how the construction of evictions in popular media obscures the consequences of asymmetrical property relations established during the Apartheid era. Next I address how local activists organize to challenge evictions. Contributing to the broader anthropological study of the city, I conclude by concentrating on the limits of constitutional judgments on behalf of evicted tenants living in transitional housing facilities and explore the way evictions have become broader metaphors for the incomplete transformation of post-apartheid South African society.


You are warmly invited to the launch of historian Patrick Wolfe’s last published book, Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race (Verso: 2016).
As many of you will know, Patrick died suddenly in February this year and we want to use this occasion to honour his extraordinary contribution to historical scholarship, his foundational role in the folourishing field of settler colonial studies and his special place in the lives of many, as father, friend, colleague, teacher, mentor, activist. Associate professor Tracey Banivanua Mar (La Trobe University) will be launching the book, with Professor Gary Foley (Victoria University) discussing Patrick’s contribution to Aboriginal history. Author Tony Birch will be the MC for this special event.

Entry is free, but RSVPs are necessary as we expect a lot of interest in this event. Numbers are capped at 120 and RSVPs close Monday 26th September or when we reach capacity.

Please send RSVPs to: tracesofhistorybooklaunch@gmail.com



Abstract: The rapid increase in private sector proposals and permit applications to use water for the purpose of hydraulic fracturing has led to significant concerns in nearly every jurisdiction in the world where shale gas development has been explored. In addition to concerns about risks to water quantity and quality, in Canada, shale gas development has highlighted how the Crown (federal and provincial governments) continues to struggle in its approach to honor, respect, and uphold Nation-to-Nation relationships with Indigenous peoples. But moving beyond the criticism, we argue that these circumstances have provided a renewed opportunity to explore alternative governance approaches. Existing water governance challenges are exacerbated by historical injustices generated by resource management approaches that have exposed Indigenous nations to disproportionate environmental risks. Furthermore, the inadequacy of current water governance approaches to recognizing Indigenous rights, self-determination, ways of knowing, and values has been well established in literature relating to environmental governance and Indigenous peoples. Given these circumstances, if water is allocated to hydraulic fracturing in Canada with continued disregard for Indigenous rights and risks, we contend that this only further intensifies unjust environmental and cultural harm to Indigenous peoples. In the quest for solutions, we discuss the challenges to alternative models (co-management, collaborative governance, and impact benefit agreements) that are frequently cited in environment-Indigenous literature. We conclude with recommendations to address the unresolved challenges inherent in these governance models, in the interest of improving water decision-making.




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