Biannual McMillan-Stewart Lecture Series: Jennifer Denetdale

Biannual McMillan-Stewart Lecture Series: Jennifer Denetdale

Jennifer Denetdale

October 21, 2020 @ 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM EST

In March of 2020, international attention turned to the Navajo Nation in the Southwestern U.S. as the novel coronavirus spread through Navajo/Diné communities, making the Navajo Nation a hot spot that surpassed US states like New York and Washington in the numbers of infections and deaths. Public health officials, Indigenous leaders and scholars declared that the root causes of the novel corona virus’ spread in communities where poverty and disparities are rampant, providing the rationale for the spread in Navajo communities.

As the Diné storyteller Sunny Dooley asserts: “We have every social ill you can think of, and COVID has made these vulnerabilities more apparent. I look at it as a monster that is feasting on us—because we have built the perfect human for it to invade.” Taking an Indigenous feminist and queer lens, this presentation will offer an analysis on how the U.S. settler state requires the death of Indigenous peoples like the Diné in order to make its claims to sovereignty and second, that the U.S. remains a settler society whose multicultural, liberal and democratic structure and form of governance is always not innocent and that it requires to legitimate Indigenous dispossession over and over. This settler project is thus, always gendered and murderous, criminal.

Jennifer Denetdale (Diné) is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. A historian, she is a professor of American Studies and the director of UNM’s Institute for American Indian Research (IFAIR). She is also the chair of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.