Florencia e. mallon
Introduction
Decolonizing​Knowledge,​Language,​and​Narrative
This​book​was​born​at​a​conference​entitled​Narrating​Native​Histories​held​
at​the​University​of​Wisconsin,​Madison,​in​April​2005,​a​meeting​which​
itself​ was​ the​ result​ of​ exchanges​ and​ collaborations​ among​ faculty​ col-
leagues​from​various​disciplinary​departments​and​with​different​regional​
specialties​who​shared​an​interest​in​Native​studies.1​Narrating​Native​His-
tories​brought​together​intellectuals​and​scholar-​activists,​both​Native​and​
non-​Native,​from​Hawai‘i​and​the​Americas.​For​three​days​we​exchanged​
views​on​how​to​establish​collaborations​across​differences​of​language,​cul-
ture,​region,​and​historical​experience​that​would​permit​us​to​disengage​
ethnography​as​well​as​other​forms​of​narrative​and​research​from​their​colo-
nial​moorings.
Given​the​crucial​role​of​the​concepts​colonialism​and​decolonization​in​
the​project​of​our​conference,​in​the​book​series​by​the​same​name​that​it​
helped​generate,​and​in​this​book,​which​brings​together​a​selection​of​the​
papers​originally​presented​in​2005,​it​is​important​to​begin​with​at​least​
some​rudimentary​definitions​of​them.​For​the​purposes​of​the​conference​
as​well​as​in​this​volume​we​have​used​these​notions​quite​expansively,​to​
define​relationships​of​domination​and​inequality​that​arose​historically​in​
different​parts​of​the​world​with​the​expansion​of​Europe.​As​these​notions​
apply​to​indigenous​peoples,​they​involve​the​conquest​and​expropriation​of​
territories;​massive​loss​of​life​through​war,​forced​labor,​and​disease;​erasure​
or​marginalization​of​cultures​and​languages;​and​the​redefinition​of​a​pro-
cess​of​violent​conquest​as​“inevitable”​because​of​supposed​differences​in​
levels​of​“civilization.”​As​has​been​well​documented,​the​alleged​differences​
of​culture​and​so-​called​progress​between​colonizer​and​colonized​were​then​
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