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Press Release

"Sovereignty Matters," a two-day interdisciplinary conference on sovereignty in Native American, Pacific Islander, and Puerto Rican Communities, Starts at Columbia University on April 15

March 30, 2005
Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

(New York, 3/30/05) Despite a minor ripple of attention to Native Americans due to the recent founding of the Native American Museum in Washington D.C. and the appreciation of Puerto Rican voters in swing-states like Florida, Native American, Pacific Islander and Puerto Rican sovereignty matters are rarely the subject of public discourse and are severely understudied in most U.S. universities, including in areas such as comparative law, gender studies, and American studies. Research across groups and disciplines is also alarmingly infrequent.

Sponsored by Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, and organized by Columbia professor Frances Negrón-Muntaner, "Sovereignty Matters" hopes to spur debate regarding the multiple meanings and discourses of sovereignty, promote comparative work, and engage with the broader implications of nation-building in the U.S.

The conference will be held April 15-April 16, 2005, and begins at 1:00 PM, at Shermerhorn 614. The conference reception will be held at 5:00 PM at Philosophy 310, and it will include a live performance by the Puerto Rican music group Yerbabuena led by Tato Torres.

Conference participants include scholars and artists from Hawai'i, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and First Nations in the United States and Canada. A full program appears below.

For more information, please contact the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at 212-854-0510 or visit our web site

The conference is free of charge and open to the public. No registration required.

Full Conference Program

Friday, April 15

614 Schermerhorn

1:00-1:30 PM

Introduction and Welcome

1:45-3:30 PM

Sovereignty Matters: Perspectives from Native American, Pacific Islander and Puerto Rican Studies

Maivân Clech Lâm, "Requiem for the Nation-State: De-linking Ethnicity and Sovereignty" (City University of New York)

Amilcar Barreto (Northeastern University) "Burrowing from Within: Undermining National Myths and State Paradigms"

Jon Osorio (University of Hawai'i), "Conflicting interpretations of Sovereignty in Hawai'i and the Historic Roots of 'Disunity'"

Adriana Garriga Lopez and Lisa Uperesa, (Columbia University) "Differential Colonialisms and Multiple Sovereignties: Comparative Perspectives on Puerto Rico and American Samoa"

Respondent: Gary Y. Okihiro (Columbia University)

3:30-5:15 PM

The Space of Sovereignty: Land, Law and Citizenship

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (California State University East Bay), "Self-Determination and Sovereignty: Native Americans at the United Nations"

Davianna McGregor (University of Hawai'i), "Recognizing Native Hawaiians: Reality Bites"

Michael Lujan Bevacqua (University of California, San Diego), "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Guam, but Were Afraid to Ask Zizek"

Charles Venator Santiago (Ithaca College), "From the Insular Cases to Camp X-Ray: The State of Exception in the United States Jurisprudence"

Respondent: Angelia Means (Darmouth College)

5:30-8 PM - Reception

Philosophy 301

With Yerbabuena, New York-based Puerto Rican music group.

Saturday, April 16

Philosophy 301

9:30-11:15 PM

Critical Relations: Sovereignty, Identity and Nationalism

Efrén Rivera Ramos (University of Puerto Rico), "Sovereignty, Identity, and Citizenship in the Puerto Rican Context"

Dan Aga, (Dean, American Samoa Community College), "American Samoa's Political Status: Territorial Stepchild or Best of Both of Worlds?"

Honorable Robert Underwood (University of Guam), "The Convergence of the Issues of Sovereignty, Political Status and Indigenous Rights in Guam"

Audra Simpson (Cornell University), "Nationalism and Its Contents: Mohawk Sovereignty and Citizenship-Formation in the Face of Empire"

Respondent: Bruce Robbins (Columbia University)

11:30-1:15 PM

Imagining Sovereignties: The Role of Cultural Production

Guillermo Irizarry (University of Massachusetts), "Strategic Injuries"

L. Lehuanani Lono Yim (Brandeis University), "Legacies of Oni v. Meek: Property, Custom, and the Living Law of the Kingdom of Hawai`i"

Vince Diaz (University of Michigan), "PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS...Roads, Indigenous Identity, and American Imperialism 'in' Guam"

Dan Taulapapam McMullin (independent writer, filmmaker and artist), "Culture and the Passive Resistance of Samoans to US Colonialism"

Respondent, Frances Negrón-Muntaner (Columbia University)

1:15-2:15 PM Lunch

2:30-4:15 PM

Plural Sovereignties: Sexuality and Gender

Tina T. Delisle (University of Michigan), "Working the Intersections of Navy Wives and Native Lives in pre-WWII Guam"

Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhran (Michigan State University), "Oiwi Gender and Sexual Shifts in the Nationalist Agenda of Haunani-Kay Trask"

Andrea Smith (University of Michigan), "Gender violence and Native Sovereignties"

Arnaldo Cruz Malavé (Fordham), "The Oxymoron of Sexual Sovereignty: Some Puerto Rican Literary Reflections"

Respondent: Elizabeth Povinelli (Columbia University)

Conference Poster available at:

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