Exploring indigenous secession: Alexander Keller Hirsch, ‘Articulating secession: self-determination, decolonization and stateless independence amongst the Kanaka Maoli’, Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 2015


Abstract: Two assumptions reign supreme in the secession literature. The first is that separatist groups seeking autonomy necessarily fall into one of two camps, one that stresses essentialist criteria for social membership, the other emphasizing instead a socially constructed collective identity. The second assumption is that secession can only be defined as taking place in the context of a separatist group whose claim to independence hinges on the attempt to galvanize a new state. This article challenges both assumptions by looking to a provocative counter-site. Amongst the Kanaka Maoli of Hawai’i secession is increasingly framed precisely as a rejection of those Western idioms that have historically undergirded colonial expropriation and racial subjection. As such, secession is being framed not as a struggle for new statehood, but rather as a reinvigoration of indigenous lifeworlds. In so doing, the Kanaka Maoli are asserting community boundaries in ways that contest the idea that indigenous identity is solely about biological criteria such as blood quantum, but also challenge the notion that indigenous self-determination can be reduced to postmodern identity politics. The argument I defend suggests that articulation theory can offer us orienting power in situating some of the stakes of Kanaka Maoli stateless secession. Articulation theory expresses the idea that identities are volatile collective self-assertions that take place at discrepant scales of interactive exchange. This article argues that we can detect some important emergent practices of articulation at play in the Kanaka Maoli’s experimental revisioning of what secession can mean today.

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