At a time of heightened awareness of the persistent challenges of race and ethnicity in America, UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies has joined together with the American Indian Studies Center, the Critical Race Studies program, the Center for European and Russian Studies and the Department of History to organize a conference on Race, Indigeneity, and Settler Colonialism. This conference will consider the similarities that connect the histories and displacements of indigenous populations around the world. Recent interdisciplinary study of indigenous peoples has given rise to important new scholarship on how the concept of race intersects with that of indigeneity in the formation of structures of subordination.
The conference, which is free to the public, will take place on Thursday and Friday, March 9-10, beginning at 1 pm on Thursday and ending at 5:30 pm Friday, in room 1327 of the UCLA School of Law. Conference schedule.
Seminal insights on the topic of settler colonialism were developed by the Australian anthropologist Patrick Wolfe (1949-2016), to whose memory the conference is dedicated. Wolfe’s early work explored the histories of settlers in Australia, the United States, Israel, and Brazil, demonstrating that the settlers’ laws and customs operated as if the country were empty, ignoring the presence of an indigenous population. More recently, Wolfe had turned his attention to race and comparative colonial studies, identifying the mechanisms by which regimes of race were imposed on aboriginal people in Australia, black and Native American communities in the United States, and people of African descent in Brazil, to name a few instances. His book Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race charts the different modes of domination that engender both specific regimes of race and attendant strategies of anti-colonial resistance. The conference panels are organized around the themes in Traces of History as well as the comparative regional frame Wolfe developed throughout his work.
The conference will gather scholars from around the world to explore insights inspired by Wolfe’s conclusions, which have enabled researchers to develop new contributions to political theory, constitutional theory, critical race studies, indigenous studies, ethnography, sociology, and historical understanding. The conference includes faculty from across UCLA working on issues of indigeneity, settler colonial studies and race. In addition, from beyond our campus, we are excited to welcome: Ghassan Hage (University of Melbourne, Australia), David Goldberg (UC Irvine), David Lloyd (UC Riverside), Aziz Rana (Cornell Law School), Sherene Seikaly (UCSB), Gershon Shafir (UCSD) and Lorenzo Veracini (Swinburne University, Australia).
The conference will offer an important contribution to conversations at UCLA and in our surrounding community on contemporary forms of discrimination and exclusion. The historical study of relationships of inequality and domination is an essential contribution of Wolfe’s work. Connecting those histories with later racial subordination and new forms of resistance, from anticolonial struggles to the Black Lives Matter movement, is an opportunity for the conference to provide grounding for cross-racial solidarity in both policy and scholarship. Connecting the dots from settler colonialism in the Middle East, Africa and Australasia to the forms of racial discrimination impacting Native American and African-American rights here in southern California provides important insights for scholars, students, community activists and organizers on our campus and from all of the communities surrounding UCLA.