Sunday, March 1, 2015

Conquest

Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide –Andrea Smith

In her book, Smith draws attention to a multitude of hegemonic practices that contribute to the destruction of Native communities. She frames these practices from the perspective of rape culture, demonstrating how colonialism, patriarchy, capitalism, and other oppressive structures facilitate sexual violence against Native communities in general and Native women in particular. Starting with the history of violence against Native populations, Smith goes on to describe boarding school abuses, environmental degradation, negligent healthcare practices, cultural appropriation, and other devastating structural practices that have marginalized, minimized, and maligned Native populations. For each case of misconduct, Smith provides specific, often graphic, examples detailing the horrific practices. She also suggests alternatives by profiling individuals, groups or communities that have discovered entirely innovative approaches for addressing the intersectional impact of sexual violence, or offering her own recommendations on how communities can resist and restructure systems of oppression. Despite the grim reality she reveals, she does so from the firm conviction that the situation can and will change.

I say that Smith frames her writing from the perspective of rape culture because certainly not every example she provides falls within the definition of “sexual assault.” Rape of the land is not the same thing as rape of another person, though both exist and reinforce the other in systems of colonial, patriarchal oppression. Reading from this perspective also helped my own understanding of the book because even though it was easy to follow her arguments into minutia, stepping back and reframing it as part of rape culture provided broader context for the details. Parts of her writing are hard to stomach, and I sometimes found myself in disbelief at the accounts of violence she shared. Despite the violence, and also because of it, Smith’s book is shocking, revelatory, and all the more important to read because of the history and interconnections she elucidates.