Hanging out at American Indian community events has led me to think differently about the work of acknowledgment, about how it can be as much about the future as about the past, and as much about strengthening collectives as honoring individuals. Beginning an event that is about to occur (a meeting, speech, dance, ceremony) with lengthy acknowledgment of where one comes from, how one was taught and by whom, situates the event within a collective (transgenerational) production of knowledge. It also creates the conditions for good relations among the participants by hailing them as part of an ongoing communal process. In that spirit, I am happy to acknowledge the communities of my collective knowledge making. I offer the book as my externalization of the group effort for this moment, with the hope that it can recursively strengthen the collective discourse.
Without Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, her scholarship, her impact, and her efforts to teach me something, there would be no Represent and Destroy. During her time as my dissertation advisor, she read every word of every draft of my writing. I owe more to her than I can express for those hours spent sitting at her hall table, being taken to task because my words and sentence structure undermined the concept I was trying to set to work. I hope this memory will serve as a measure of my gratitude when my scholarship falls short. From the graduate program in English and comparative literature at Columbia University, I am also grateful to Marcellus Blount, Ann Douglas, Gauri Viswanathan, and Priscilla Wald, all exemplars of rigor as thinkers and of generosity as teachers. At Columbia, too, David Eng came into my life and sharpened it. I am thankful for his brilliance (which he readily dispenses for the benefit of others) and his inspiriting wit.
I am deeply grateful to my closest interlocutors, from graduate school days to the present, Roderick Ferguson, Grace Kyungwon Hong, and Chandan Reddy. They have all become forces in their own right, innovating important new analytics as they need them, to expose the emergent features of the dominant. They are the friends whose work I keep on my desk and whose words are in my mouth (to paraphrase Zora Neale Hurston). If I were to cite them in these pages as they deserve to be cited, I would fill up a hundred footnotes with their names. Instead, I will just thank them and acknowledge plainly that many of the best parts of the book—and of my life—would not be but for them. I thank my other interlocutors from graduate school days: Victor Bascara, Suzanne Daley, Joe Keith, Sanda Lwin, Joshua Miller, Dennis Ortiz, Sonali Perrera, Claudia Stokes, and Cynthia Tolentino. For institutional support for writing and research that transferred from dissertation to book, I thank the Social Science Research Council and Columbia University’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy and Research, especially William McAllister.
The Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington–Seattle and a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellowship provided me constant stimulation and time for foundational research and writing. I am one of many beneficiaries of director Kathleen Woodward’s vitality and her powerful advocacy for interdisciplinary scholarship and the public humanities. The community of friendship and solidarity that enfolded me in Seattle was incredible. I am extremely thankful to Gillian Harkins, Moon-Ho Jung, Chandan Reddy, Nikhil Pal Singh, and Alys Weinbaum. Their influence is everywhere in the book, and I continue to learn from them. The conversations I had with Nikhil, as he was finishing Black Is a Country, were invaluable.
Asan assistant professor I could not ask for better junior faculty mentoring than I’ve received in the Department of English at Marquette University. I thank all my department colleagues, especially Tim Machan and Kris Ratcliffe for counsel during their time as chair. For reading, commenting, or conversating on parts of the book, I thank M. C. Bodden, Steve Karian, Fr. Simon Harek, SJ, Heather Hathaway, Amelia Zurcher, and the ever astute and ever magnanimous John Su. I thank the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for a Faculty Development Grant and the Center for Peacemaking for a Rynne Research Grant. For research assistance delivered with kindness, I thank Matt Darling, Robin Graham, and Jennifer Anderson.
One of the great pleasures of my academic life has been to get to know the people behind scholarship that I find vital, to feel what Toni Cade Bambara called a “gathering us-in-ness” of forces mutually committed to countering present violences. I am grateful to Lisa Lowe for her groundbreaking scholarship and her encouragement. Lisa has been such a formative teacher to so many of my interlocutors (and her work so formative for me) that I feel like her graduate student by proxy. Two of her Chicago-area students, Helen Yun and Lisa Cacho, made timely interventions during the writing of the manuscript. For voicing support at critical junctures in the writing, I thank Ned Blackhawk, Brent Hayes Edwards, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Will Jones, Robin D. G. Kelley, Micaela di Leonardo, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. I cherish the purposefulness and vision of Allison Hedge Coke, whose materializing poetical activism I write about here, as much as her friendship.
My experience with the University of Minnesota Press has been outstanding from beginning to end. My gratitude goes to the readers of my manuscript, whose insightful comments made the work of revision a pleasure, and to Michael Hanson for his careful copyediting. Richard Morrison, my editor, has all my admiration for his talent and generosity and his own, very material interventions in critical discourse.
I acknowledge with gratitude the heart friendships that sustained me before I wrote this book and during; these people probably won’t believe it’s done until they see it. For taking me in and keeping me whole, thanks always to the Phoenixes: Summer, Liberty, Wok, River, Heart, John, Jeffrey, and, forever and beyond words, Rain. I am grateful for the lifelong friendship of my sisters of the circle: Ronda Ridaught Bourn, Kathryn Grooms, and Eleni Polopolus. Thanks to my wonderful brothers, Doug and Alex, to my wonderful friends Enaya and Muayad Othman, to Larry and Esther Melamed, and to my new family, Setsuko, Tom, and Conor and Mason Peressini. I am grateful to Martin and Helga Osterland for their generosity and to Till Osterland, with loving appreciation for everything. To the staff of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, with whom I laughed and cried until its closing day, I offer an appreciative shout out: Reggie Jackson, Correy Joe Biddle, and Bethany Criss. I also offer my words to the memory of my student Ann DeWaters, who found a home at ABHM and who, like its founder, Dr. James Cameron, would have been a titan for humanity in her own right. I want to acknowledge, with gratitude for their laughter and seriousness, my friends and loved ones in Indian Country, Milwaukee: the Caldwell/Denning family (Cathy, Alan, Sheri, Isabel, Taylor, Mark, Sawyer), Michael and Nancy Day, Kim Blaeser, Dave Arndt, and, especially, my brilliant sister friend, Leah Arndt. Finally, I thank Julie D’Angelo for her clarity and enthusiasm and for being my rock.
During the last years of writing this book, Anthony Francis Peressini dropped into my life and ripened it. His presence brings me more peace, courage, and passion than I ever could have imagined. He has had my back in finishing the book in every possible way, from challenging me to articulate my claims more precisely to pinning down footnotes. Tony, my greatest thanks go to you, flying all the way home.