Risk Communication Week 11 Discussion

**The following is a post I’ve just put together as part of my Risk Communication class, which is happening over here.**

This week, we’re focusing our reflections on Smith, but you can also draw in information from last week’s reading of Wildcat if it spoke to you.

Like LaDuke, Scott, and many of the contributors to the Woods special collection, Smith is interested in the confluence of identity and risk. Smith (2005) points out that environmental risk, injustice, and inequities are attached (by hegemonic political forces) disproportionately to particular bodies; in this case, the bodies of indigenous peoples and women. For example:

 “[R]ace is consistently the most statistically significant variable in the location of commercial hazardous waste facilities. Three out of every five African Americans and Latino North Americans live in communities with toxic waste sites. Half of all Asians, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites.” (57-58)

 “American Indian women are twice as likely to be victimized by violent crime as women or men of any other ethnic group” (28), and “[p]erpetrators of sexual violence can usually commit crimes against Native women with impunity” (31) because “U.S attorneys decline to prosecute about 75 percent of all cases involving any crime in Indian country” (32).

Smith’s carefully researched approach to investigating ways of being and how risk attaches to bodies makes space for calls for change. Driskill, Finley, Gilley, and Morgensen’s collection—much like Wildcat’s text—suggests that we should re-structure our epistemological and methodological priorities. Kafer, Williams, and Halberstam all also push against false notions of normalcy, arguing for a new understanding of what bodies can be in the world. Halberstam, in particular, questions heteronormative expectations through technical documents; for example, what does a marriage contract signify and why do young straight women tend to be gifted cookbooks when their bodies are placed in proximity to such a document? What does this series of events tell us about women’s role in the world? Such critiques of normative lifestyles—lifestyles that place us at a variety of social, emotional, and physical risks—can lead to many different activist approaches. In her webtext “Making Online Spaces More Native to American Indians: A Digital Diversity Recommendation,” Haas provides some concrete examples of what this sort of activist work might look like by showing how digital spaces can promote practices of sovereignty for American Indian communities.

  •  What other sorts of activist practices can you see coming from work like Smith’s and/or Wildcat’s? More specifically, what activist practices can you engage in?
  • What sorts of risks does Smith not address?
  • What revised formulas for risk might you offer now that you’ve done some deep thinking about the ways that risk attaches to bodies? For example, would you revise Sandman’s hazard + outrage formula? If so, how? If not, how does this formula do the work these readings ask of it?

**Many thanks to Angela M. Haas, whose work and mentorship made possible many of these ideas and who introduced me to most of these readings.**


Works Cited

Driskill, Qwo-Li, Chris Finley, Brian Joseph Gilley, and Scott Lauria Morgensen. (2011). Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona.

Halberstam, Judith. (2005). In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: New York UP.

Haas, Angela M. (n.d.) “Making Online Spaces More Native to American Indians: A Digital Diversity Recommendation.” Making Online Spaces More Native to American Indians: A Digital Diversity Recommendation. Bowling Green State University. Retrieved from http://www2.bgsu.edu/departments/english/cconline/Haas/

Kafer, Alison. (2013). Feminist, Queer, Crip. Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Smith, A. (2005). Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Cambridge, MA: South End.

Wildcat, D. R. (2009). Red Alert!: Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.

Williams, Patricia. (1991). The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor. Cambridge: Harvard UP.


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