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Why We Eat Our Relatives: The Predation Paradox of Other-Than-Human Kinship

Daniel Heath Justice
Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 4:00pm
THO 101

Among the many romanticized stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, the noble savage in harmonious bliss with with the natural world is one of the most popular and problematic. In these Eurowestern fantasies, Edenic Indigenous peoples live in peaceful, uncomplicated relationship with the plants, animals, and elements, and all are in simplistic balance in the circle of life. When exercising cultural sovereignty through ritual and subsistence hunting, however, Indigenous peoples challenge these impossible colonialist ideals and are too often demonized by both left and right as brute savages, colonized sell-outs, or enemies of nature. Such dismissals inherently misrepresent Indigenous peoples' relations to the other-than-human, ignore the history of colonialism and its impacts on Indigenous peoples' ability to uphold their wide-ranging familial responsibilities, and erase the varied and complicated relations between Indigenous peoples and the diverse beings with whom they abide in kinship, obligation, and even conflict. This presentation will consider subsistence and ceremonial hunting--what we might call the "predation paradox" of killing and eating one's other-than-human relatives--in Indigenous kinship practices and in contemporary environmental and political discourse, arguing that far from being a challenge to these complex relationships, kinship predation is necessary to their long-term health and to Indigenous ecocultural resurgence.


Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation) is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture and Chair of the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. He is most recently the author of Badger, part of the Animal Series from Reaktion Books (UK), and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (2014). His current works include the literary manifesto, Why Indigenous Literature Matters (forthcoming from Wilfrid Laurier University Press) and a study of other-than-human kinship in Indigenous literary expression.

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