Dr Rebecca Macklin

Relationality as Decolonial Method: Reading Resistance Across Native American and South African Literatures

In recent years, Indigenous studies scholars have developed theoretical perspectives that allow for plural and converging experiences of settler colonialism to be understood in relation to one another. Theoretical paradigms, such as those articulated by Chadwick Allen, Jodi A. Byrd, Glenn Coulthard, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, frequently seek to place locally-informed and rooted experiences into dialogue with one another to understand the mutual impacts of transnational settler colonialism and the possibility of shared “constellations of coresistance” (Simpson 2017). However, though there are numerous points of overlap between Native American and South African experiences, scholarship has seldom considered the literatures produced in these contexts in the same frame.

This talk sets out a rationale for the comparative study of Native American and South African literatures, demonstrating the productive potential of more expansive frames of study, as well as the necessity of interrogating how categorizations of postcoloniality and indigeneity operate in distinct global spaces. Instead of developing a comparison rooted in a shared understanding of indigeneity, which is always heterogeneous, I employ the concept of relationality in the service of developing such connections – an ethic which resonates across many Indigenous and animist African cultures. Through close readings of fictional works, I argue for a relational framework that registers the implicit and explicit connections across texts. For, while settler colonial nation states can be understood in relation to one another, resistance movements – and specifically literatures of resistance – can also be understood through a logic of relationality. Consequently, I consider whether relationality can be employed as a productive method for decolonial connection in literary studies.


Rebecca Macklin is 2020-21 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities and holds a Fellowship at the David Bruce Centre for American Studies. Her research and teaching focuses on the environmental humanities and Indigenous literatures and theory, with a focus on contemporary Native American, First Nations and South African writing. Her writing has appeared in publications including ARIEL, Interventions, Native American and Indigenous Studies and Wasafiri, and she co-edited a special issue of Transmotion on ‘Native American Narratives in a Global Context’ (July 2019). Rebecca completed her PhD at the University of Leeds, UK in 2020 and previously was Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Cornell University.

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Dr David T. Ballantyne
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