Transnational and Indigenous Politics



Roshanak Kheshti, Ethnic Studies,

Faculty Group Members:

Julie Burelle, Theatre and Dance

Gloria Chacon, Literature

Kathryn Walkiewicz, Literature

Kirstie Dorr, Ethnic Studies


The recent rise of social movements like Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, NoDAPL, the Arab Spring, the South Africa Students Movement, the Iranian post-election protests of 2009, and the Zapatista Uprising have fostered and influenced artistic expression as well as novel deployments of media technologies as platforms for the dissemination of news about these events. All of these practices contemplate the colonial, semi-colonial or neocolonial underpinnings of recent political agitations. Thus the concept of the colonial “endures,” in Ann Stoler’s terms, in the contemporary.

We are an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty from the Social Sciences and Humanities who practice a broad spectrum of methods, including dramaturgy, ethnography, literary analysis and practice-as-research in the analysis of aesthetic and artistic expressions of dissent, sovereignty and resistance. Our scholarship ranges from analyzing theatrical productions by an all Indigenous Maya women’s theater group Ajchowen (Gloria Chacon) and First Nations theatre group Ondinnok (Julie Burelle), to the pitch black YouTube videos of protesters chanting “Allah-O-Akbar” on rooftops after the botched 2009 Iranian elections (Roshanak Kheshti), to young Indigenous artists’ use of social media, visual art, and hip hop to garner support for the water protectors at Standing Rock (Kathryn Walkiewicz), to the performance geographies of South American indigenous and Afrolatinos generated through the creation of non-conventional and gray market networks of circulation and exchange (Kirstie Dorr). We are united by an interest in performance and aesthetic practice as political intervention and expression of indigenous sovereignty and decolonial world making. We are convening a group that engages the transnational resurgence of politicized aesthetic practices among Indigenous groups as well as politically marginalized ethnic groups.

In creating this series of robust interdisciplinary conversations, this group supports and articulates a more expansive space for decolonizing methodologies and research projects on campus. UCSD has long been an incubator for the arts; we seek to think with the arts as global indigenous and subaltern actors have instrumentalized the arts. Following in the footsteps of the practitioners’ radical reimaginings, we seek to decolonize engagements with the arts at UCSD by moving beyond the binary opposing the fine productions of European art to the folk productions of the rest. Such a decolonizing turn necessitates a critical vocabulary that meets these complex artistic and aesthetic interventions on their own terms and acknowledges the messiness of colonial differences manifested in our diverse geographical foci, a creative and scholarly task that our group wants to take on.

Calendar of Events:

Spring 2017: Inaugural working group strategy meeting

Fall 2017: Renata Flores Rivera--an indigenous singer from Ayacucho, Peru made famous by her YouTube-based youth empowerment campaign, “Los jovenes tambien hablamos Quechua”. This will be a performance followed by an artist talk.

Winter 2018: Dylan Robinson (Queen’s University, Canada) in conversation with Beth Piatote (UC Berkeley) on the intersection between Indigenous aesthetics and sensory studies.

Spring 2018: Decolonizing Visual Arts: Mique’l Dangeli (University of Alaska) in conversation with Heather Igloliorte (Concordia University) on the place of art history in Indigenous cultural production.

Faculty Groups