Theorist Dian Million, in an essay called “Felt Theory: An Indigenous Feminist Approach to Affect and History,” describes a “new language for communities” to get at the sorrow and love that proliferates in Indigenous social worlds.
Million cites both as texts that evidenced an artistic practice that broke through the sound barrier of Canadian historical ignorance to tell “politically unspeakable” stories.
One of these words is “simple.” Simplicity is a mode of being in the world available to those enmeshed in white structures of feeling.
Simplicity is an affect that motors the cultural imaginary of whiteness; it is an interpretive strategy.
Hurled with the right amount of intensity, words floor us.
There are words that lay me flat on the floor of the world.It was and is a critique of this ravaged country’s inability to stop compounding the brutalities that Indigenous peoples are made to endure, brutalities that live and breathe in and possess the bodies of those endowed by governments of all sorts to mediate a history that is in fact without end, without mercy.refused to torpedo Indigenous peoples into the gutters of misrepresentation.Simplicity hides a flurry of forms of social and political violence that rip the lives of those from the badlands of modernity from the freedom of a simple life, from a life emptied of historically contingent tumult.Simplicity belongs only to those who live and write unfettered by all of that which ravages the worlds.We might conceptualize colonialism as in part a system of clarity in the visual sense, as a structural and structuring articulation of Indigenous life so as to refuse it the promise of freedom, to refuse us a world-making kinship that was in opposition to the world-engulfing effects of racial capitalism.We were and still are made to exist in a visual field in which we are barred from democratizing the felt knowledge of our dignity., Audra Simpson traces the discursive and political beginnings of “the savage” to the earliest moments of contact at which settlers did the terrible and terror-making work of classification so as to acclimatize the Indigenous to an atmosphere of ideas they had transported with them from Europe.Indeed, it was recently revealed that a chunk of Campbell’s book was edited out because it detailed sexual abuse at the hands of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an avowal that would have surely thrown into relief the chronic problem of police brutality against Indigenous women.This time, Million tells us, produced “a profound literature of experience.” Still, those who look and install meaning into words with the force of a history of impoverished reading negate the profundity of our writing.* “My story was maltreated.” So goes Terese Marie Mailhot in her debut memoir elaborates a theory of ethical living, of how we might tune our ears to hear the always-compounding ways that Indigenous women are denied care.It is not just that we are called on to listen in a mode that might shatter the sound barrier of liberal empathy (to testify), but also and more importantly to treat a story so as to read and act in the direction of the world it begets.