Mark Rifkin, "Settler Common Sense: Queerness and Everyday Colonialism in the American Renaissance" (U Minnesota Press, 2014)

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Summary

In Settler Common Sense: Queerness and Everyday Colonialism in the American Renaissance (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), Mark Rifkin, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and incoming president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, explores three of the most canonical authors in the American literary awakening--Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Melville--demonstrating how even as their texts mount queer critiques of the state, they take for granted--even depend upon--conceptions of place, politics and personhood normalized in the settler-state's engagement with Indigenous peoples.

Rifkin's exegesis is relevant far beyond nineteenth-century literary studies. As "settler colonialism" gains currency in left and academic circles as a descriptor of the present reality in the United States, Canada, Israel and elsewhere, there is a tendency to identify its workings only in the encounter between the colonizers and the colonized, the state and Indigenous peoples.

This is a mistake, Rifkin warns. None of the novels he interrogates deal specifically with Native people. Yet colonialism is not, he writes, a dynamic that inheres only Native bodies. Rather, it's a persistent "phenomenon that shapes nonnative subjectivities, intimacies, articulations and sensations separate from whether or not something recognizably Indian comes into view."

Colonialism is thus a common sense.

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