Between subalternity and indigeneity

Jodi A. Byrd, Michael Rothberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This introductory essay addresses the conditions for possible exchange between subaltern studies and indigenous and American Indian studies. It highlights the special significance of Spivak's 'Can the Subaltern Speak?' as an inaugurating moment of postcolonial studies in the US with important implications for those working in indigenous studies. Scholars in postcolonial and indigenous/American Indian studies share an interest in challenging the logics of colonialism and deploying incommensurability as a critical tool. However, the essay also points to tensions between postcolonial and indigenous studies that derive from indigenous people's sense of living under ongoing colonial projects - and not just colonial legacies - and from postcolonial studies' over-reliance on models of colonialism in South Asia and Africa that do not necessarily speak to the settler colonies of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Besides tracing the convergences and tensions that mark the relation between indigenous and postcolonial critical tendencies, this essay introduces the contributions to this special issue and seeks to prompt further dialogue that continues the project of interrogating subalternity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • American Indian studies
  • Spivak
  • incommensurability
  • indigenous
  • postcolonial studies
  • sovereignty
  • subaltern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology


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