Indigenous settlers? Amy Reed Sandoval, ‘Settler-State Borders and the Question of Indigenous Immigrant Identity’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 2020


Abstract: Indigenous migration from Latin America to the United States has been on the rise over the past decades. There has also been an increase in Indigenous self-identification amongst people in the United States who previously self-identified as Hispanic or Latina/o on census forms. Though Latin American Indigenous migration to the United States has been steadily on the rise since the 1990s, there remains a lack of resources—philosophical, political, and bureaucratic—to account for this migrant group. My goal in this article is to explore in greater depth why Latin American Indigenous migration is hermeneutically marginalised. First, I argue that we problematically fail to understand settler-state borders—particularly the Mexico-US border—as, in part, Indigenous spaces. Second, and relatedly, I argue that our failure to understand borders as Indigenous spaces is connected to the widespread, inaccurate presumption that Indigenous peoples ‘lose their authenticity’ (and, in turn, their very Indigenous identities) upon crossing settler-state borders. Contrary to what I describe as the dominant view of borders as de-Indigenised or non-Indigenous spaces, I argue in that many settler-state borders are spaces where Indigenous peoples, including Indigenous migrants, may experience their Indigenous identities intimately, and even publicly articulate and defend them. Importantly, this does not mean that settler-state borders do not also harm Indigenous peoples by threating Indigenous sovereignty. I end by arguing that addressing the hermeneutical marginalisation of Latin American Indigenous migration requires a rigorous reconceptualisation of borders themselves as Indigenous spaces.

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