U.S. Settler Colonial Biopolitics and Indigenous Life Writing

DFG Funded Research Project “U.S. Settler Colonial Biopolitics and Indigenous Life Writing”
(DI 1881/2-3; Funding until 01/2019)

Principal Investigator: Dr. René Dietrich

The research project seeks to explore how acts of life writing by North American Indigenous authors bring to the fore the biopolitical logic of racialization, regulation, and naturalization integral to settler colonialism and constitutive to the U.S. as a settler nation-state from its foundation to the present. The texts of life writing by Indigenous authors from William Apess to Deborah Miranda render transparent the settler colonial biopolitical logics of the U.S, and show how they construct Indigenous bodies and lives as objects to be variously removed, discarded, contained, infantilized, fetishized, or pathologized. In their acts of life writing these Indigenous intellectuals offer a powerful means of intervention into the biopolitical logics of settler colonialism, as they expose the foundational element of elimination and disavowal in settler colonial biopolitics, refuse to be contained within the depoliticized category of “Indianness,” and attain a position of agency from which to not only offer a severe critique of the politics of the settler state, but also to denaturalize settler colonial rule. Their writing amounts to an exhibition of a lived sovereignty that defies the limitations of the settler state, its biopolitical order, and its lived colonial logics. The project thus wants to probe how North American Indigenous life writing contains a crucial activist impulse in the movement toward a politics of decolonizing life and life writing.

The project will result in a monograph.

List of project publications and events


Artwork in header excerpted from: “Patriotism Percentages,” part of “Four Things You Can Do with Your Chart for Calculating Quantum of Indian Blood” by Deborah A. Miranda, reprinted with permission of artist.