Indigenous Epistemology, Scientific Knowledge and the Ends of the World
In Spring 2020, the Digital Democracies Institute at Simon Fraser University hosted a reading group developed and hosted by Dr. Karrmen Crey and Dr. Svitlana Matviyenko entitled, “Indigenous Epistemology, Scientific Knowledge and the Ends of the World.” The reading group was directly inspired by Transmissions, and continued to explore the ideas, issues, and questions raised in the Symposium.
The reading group was structured thematically based on the Symposium panels, examining philosophies of Indigenous science and Western science, the epistemological roots of technologies used for representing knowledge (maps, atlases), and questions of how we conceive of possible futures from what often feels like impossible presents. Below are the bibliographies for each of our five meetings, and additional readings related to The Roots of Meaning: A Symposium on Lisa Jackson’s Transmissions.
The Roots of Meaning: A Symposium on Lisa Jackson’s Transmissions
traditional ecological knowledge – nature – science
What is Indigenous science? Gregory Cajete proposes that it “is based on the perception gained from using the entire body of our senses in direct participation with the natural world,” and that it includes “metaphysics and philosophy; art and architecture; practical technologies and agriculture; and ritual and ceremony practiced by Indigenous peoples both past and present” (2). This session put Western sciences and Indigenous sciences into conversation to examine the philosophical contexts for both, and their intersections and divergences.
Gregory Cajete, “Telling a Special Story,” “Philosophy of Native Science.” Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Books, 1999, 11-56; 57-84.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Oregon State UP, 2003.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions, 2013.
Sara Ahmed, “Introduction: A Useful Archive,” “The Biology of Use and Disuse.” What’s the Use?: On the Uses of Use. Duke UP, 2019.
Glen Aikenhead and Herman Michell, Bridging Cultures: Indigenous and Scientific Ways of Knowing Nature. Pearson Press, 2010.
Douglas L. Medin author Megan Bang, Who’s Asking?: Native Science, Western Science, and Science Education. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014.
technology – technics – (cultural) techniques – cosmotechnics
What methods do we use to engage with and produce knowledge? How do they shape what we see or examine of the world? These readings examine the philosophical basis for the formulation of such methods, and how they ultimately shape our understandings of the natural world and the place of humans within it.
Yuk Hui, “Introduction.” The Question Concerning Technology in China: An Essay in Cosmotechnics. London: Urbanomic, 2019.
Bernard Siegiert, “The map is the territory,” Radical Philosophy 169 (September-October 2011).
Sara Ahmed, “Use as Technique.” What’s the Use?: On the Uses of Use. Duke UP, 2019.
Sybille Kramer and Horst Bredekamp, “Culture, Technology, Cultural Techniques – Moving Beyond Text.” Theory, Culture & Society 30.6 (2013): 20–29.
Cornelia Vismann, “Cultural Techniques and Sovereignty.” Theory, Culture & Society 30.6 (2013): 83–93.
Bernhard Siegert, “Door Logic, or, the Materiality of the Symbolic: From Cultural Techniques to Cybernetic Machines.” Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real. Stanford: Stanford UP, 192-205.
Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, “After Kittler: On the Cultural Techniques of Recent German Media Theory.” Theory, Culture & Society 30.6 (2013): 66–82.
land – territory – mapping – infrastructure (and nationalisms)
How do we represent, visualize, and disseminate knowledge? What are the epistemological roots that shape technologies of knowledge representation, such as maps and atlases? These readings examine how such technologies produce and shape scientific and empirical knowledge, and how Indigenous peoples have adapted and transformed these technologies to represent Indigenous histories and knowledge systems.
Keith Carlson, ed., Albert McHalsie, cultural advisor, and Jan Perrier, graphic artist. A Stó:lō Coast Salish Historical Atlas. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.
Keith Thor Carlson, “Chapter 1: Encountering Lower Fraser River Indigenous Identity and Historical Consciousness,” “Chapter 2: Economy, Geography, Environment and Historical Identity,” “Chapter 3: Spiritual Forces of Historical Affiliation.” The Power of Place, the Problem of Time: Aboriginal Identity and Historical Consciousness in the Cauldron of Colonialism. Toronto: Toronto UP, 2010.
Stuart Elden, “Introduction,” “Coda: Territory as a Political Technology.” The Birth of Territory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Glen Sean Coulthard, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minnesota UP, 2014.
Marianne Ignace and Ronald Ignace, Secwépemc People, Land, and Laws. McGill-Queen’s UP, 2017.
Brenna Bhandar, Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership. Duke UP, 2018.
Jean Gottman, The Significance of Territory. Charlottesville: Virginia UP, 1973.
Audra Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of the Settler States. Duke UP, 2014.
Michel Serres, The Parasite. Minnesota UP, 2009.
Earth – Cosmos – Anthropocene
Rapid, catastrophic climate change has led to urgent public discussions about the Anthropocene, the current geologic era in which human population growth and activity have profoundly altered the climate and environment. The language and imagery of apocalypse has increasingly saturated popular, scientific, and academic discourse as we look to the future. Indigenous peoples, however, have often stated that the apocalypse has already happened in the form of colonization, and that Indigenous peoples have persisted, imagining different futures of survival, recovery, and regeneration. This session examined understandings of the Athropocene, apocalyptic thinking, and different ways of imagining alternative futures.
Kyle P. Whyte. “Indigenous science (fiction)for the Anthropocene: Ancestral dystopias and fantasies of climate change crises.” Environment & Planning E: Nature and Space 1 (2018): 224-242.
Yuk Hui, “Sinofuturism in the Anthropocene,” “For Another World History.” The Question Concerning Technology in China: An Essay in Cosmotechnics. London: Urbanomic, 2019, 290-301; 301-312.
Leanne Simpson, Lighting the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence, and Protection of Indigenous Nations. ARP Books, 2008.
Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. Minnesota: Minnesota UP, 2018.
Nick Estes, Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. Verso, 2019.
Rosalyn Bold, ed. Indigenous Perceptions of the End of the World: Creating a Cosmopolitics of Change. Palgrave McMillan, 2019.
Julie Michelle Klinger, Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes. Cornell UP, 2017.
Bernard Stiegler, The Neganthropocene. Open Humanities, 2018.
Claire Colebrook, Death of the PostHuman. Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1. Open Humanities, 2014.
Meeting 5: Futurisms
What possible futures can we imagine, and what kinds of values, beliefs, and knowledge shape those possibilities? What role does art and cultural production play in conceptualizing and theorizing those futures? This session examines how Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, filmmakers, and academics have visioned possible human futures.
Readings & Viewings
Danika Medak-Saltzman, “Coming to You from the Indigenous Future: Native Women, Speculative Film Shorts, and the Art of the Possible,” Studies in American Indian Literatures 29.1 (2017): 139-171.
Scharmen, Fred. Space Settlements. Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2019. Columbia UP, 2019: 15-32; 139-177.
Elizabeth LaPensée, Invaders and Thunderbird Strike. http://www.elizabethlapensee.com/#/games
Nanobah Becker, The 6th World. FUTURESTATES. 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f4Jm0y_iLk
The Roots of Meaning:
A Symposium on Lisa Jackson’s Transmissions
On Sept. 20th, 2019, Simon Fraser University held a symposium in honour of the world premiere of Lisa Jackson’s Transmissions at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at Simon Fraser University, Woodwards. The symposium was organized by Karrmen Crey (Stó:lō) and Kate Hennessy. Presented below are lists of readings that were mentioned or authored by symposium participants.
Indigenous Language Ecologies
In this moderated conversation, panelists were invited to respond to Transmissions through the lens of their own experience with Indigenous languages. Transmissions aims to manifest the fundamental reality that decolonial support of Indigenous language learning requires multiple disciplinary perspectives and broader understanding of the complex ecologies—cultural, geographical, political, historical, familial—in which Indigenous languages thrived in the past and in which they can thrive in the future. How can works like Transmissions begin to present this understanding—the roots of meaning—in the world?
Marianne Nicolson (Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations/ Kwakwaka’wakw); Eldon Yellowhorn (Piikani); Vanessa Campbell (Musqueam), Larry Grant (Musqueam).
Clifford (Kam’ayaam/Chachim’multhnii) Atleo, “Aboriginal Economic Development and Living Nuu-chah-nulth-aht.” More Will Sing Their Way to Freedom: Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence. Elaine Coburn, ed. Black Point: Fernwood Publishing, 2015.
McMillan, Alan D., and Eldon Yellowhorn. First Peoples in Canada. D & M Publishers, 2009.
Indigenous Futurisms and the Anthropocene
In this moderated conversation, speakers were invited to respond to Transmissions as an expression of Indigenous Futurism, a term coined by Dr. Grace Dillon. As a three-part installation, Transmissions evokes urban, natural, and speculative landscapes, human and non-human relationships, and the dynamic persistence of Indigenous languages and world views into the future. In the context of the Anthropocene, colonial extractivism, environmental degradation and catastrophic climate change, how do Indigenous Futurist works like Transmissions articulate a decolonial way forward?
Grace Dillon (Anishinaabe); Candis Callison (Tahltan); June Scudeler (Métis); Clifford Atleo (Tsimshian (Kitsumkalum/Kitselas) and Nuu-chah-nulth (Ahousaht); David Gaertner
Candis Callison, How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts. Duke University Press, 2014.
Grace Dillon, Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. The University of Arizona Press, 2012.
Grace Dillon,ed. Hive of Dreams: Contemporary Science Fiction from the Pacific Northwest. Northwest Readers, 2003.
June Scudeler, “’Indians on Top’: Kent Monkman’s Sovereign Erotics.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, vol. 39, no. 4, 2015, pp. 19–32.
David Gaertner, The Theatre of Regret: Troubling Reconciliation in Canada. UBC Press, 2020 (forthcoming).
Daniel Heath Justice, “Indigenous Wonder Works and the Settler Colonial Imaginary.” 10 August 2017. https://apex-magazine.com/indigenous-wonderworks-and-the-settler-colonial-imaginary/
Eve Tuck, “Suspending damage: A letter to communities.” Harvard Educational Review 79.3 (2009): 409-428.
Dallas Hunt, “’In search of our better selves’: Totem Transfer Narratives and Indigenous Futurities.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 42.1 (2018): 71-90.
Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves. Dancing Cat Books, 2017.
Helen Haig-Brown, dir. ?E?Anx : the Cave. Rugged Media Nexwiyenilh’in. V Tape, 2009.
Alexis Wright. The Swan Book: A Novel. Simon and Schuster, 2016.
Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God. Hachette UK, 2017. Elizabeth LaPensée, Thunderbird Strike. 2016. https://www.thunderbirdstrike.com/
Lisa Jackson in conversation with Dr. Karrmen Crey
In this keynote conversation, artist Lisa Jackson joined Simon Fraser University Professor Karrmen Crey (Stó:lō) to reflect on the earlier sessions and the creative process and intentions behind Transmissions.
Lisa Jackson, Biidaaban: First Light. 2019. https://www.nfb.ca/interactive/biidaaban_first_light/
Lisa Jackson, Lichen. 2019. http://lisajackson.ca/Lichen-IMAX
Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image. Penguin, 1999.
Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. Yale University Press, 2019.
Trevor Goward, Bruce McCune, and D. Meidinger. “The Lichens of British Columbia.” Illustrated Keys. Part 1 (1994): 1-181.
Erica Gies, “Naturalist Trevor Goward Helps to Overturn a 150-Year-Old Truth of Science.” Scientific American. June 2017. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/naturalist-trevor-goward-helps-to-overturn-a-150-year-old-truth-of-science/