Supported by the Mellon Foundation “Humanities for All Times” initiative.

Savage States: Settler Governance in an Age of Sorrow

Professor Audra Simpson

5:00PM, Saturday, October 14th, 2023

Olin Auditorium, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson


How is the past imagined to be settled? What are the conditions that make for this imagining, this fantasy or rather, demand of a new start point? In this piece I consider the slice of this new-ness in recent history – 1990 to the near present in Canada.  This is a time of apology, and a time in which Native people and their claims to territory are whittled to the status of claimant or subject in time with the fantasy of their disappearance from a modern and critical present. In this piece I examine how the Canadian practice of settler governance has adjusted itself in line with global trends and rights paradigms away from overt violence to what are seen as softer and kinder, caring modes of governing but governing, violently still and yet, with a language of care, upon on still stolen land. This piece asks not only in what world we imagine time to stop, but takes up the ways in which those that survived the time stoppage stand in critical relationship to dispossession and settler governance apprehend, analyze and act upon this project of affective governance. Here an oral and textual history of the notion of “reconciliation” is constructed and analyzed with recourse to Indigenous criticism of this affective and political project of repair.

This event is the inaugural lecture of the Rethinking Place: Bard-on-Mahicantuck Electa Quinney Lecture Series.

About Audra Simpson

Audra Simpson is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She researches and writes about Indigenous and settler society, politics and history. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press, 2014), winner of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies Prize, the Laura Romero Prize from the American Studies Association, the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (2015) and CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title in 2014. She has published articles and book chapters spanning various fields. She was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto in 2018, the Nicholson Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Unit for Criticism and Theory at University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) in 2019 and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Department of Race, Diaspora and Indigeneity at University of Chicago in 2023. In 2010 she won Columbia University’s School for General Studies Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2020 she won the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching. She was the second anthropologist in the 50-year history of the award to do so. She is a Kahnawà:ke Mohawk.