The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Carpenter v. Murphy on November 27. At issue in the case is whether the roadside ditch in rural Oklahoma where Patrick Murphy murdered George Jacobs is part of the Muscogee Creek Reservation. If the murder took place on the Muscogee Creek Reservation, it would fall under federal jurisdiction. If it was not Indian land, then the state of Oklahoma would have jurisdiction.
While 2018 has been called the year of the woman, in US politics it has been full of contradictions. Women, and particularly women of color, have made their voices heard, winning elections from school board to Senate. And yet, at the highest levels of government, male rage still carries the day.
Anthropologists have begun to take seriously the other-than-human entities at play in the world and in political life. In Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds, Marisol de la Cadena details “co-laboring” closely with Mariano and Nazario Turpo, a family of ritual practitioners and land-rights activists.
Several months ago, my friend—we’ll call her Carmen—and I were chatting nostalgically over lunch about the atmosphere of street protest in Bolivia. We had met in Bolivia where she worked for many years as a journalist. She was intimately familiar with the patterns of political activism, intellectual life, and statecraft there.
In Frederick Douglass’s famous oration, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” he calls himself a citizen, but the speech is full of references to “your national independence” and “your political freedom.” This ambivalence reflects the bitter irony of celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence while black men and women were held as slaves, bought and sold like animals.
Police all over the world take things from people. Whether legal or illegal, the practice often depends on keeping up a double meaning that provides cover.
One of my friends in San Ignacio de Mojos, Bolivia was Don Santiago (not his real name). By the time I met him, he had already held several positions within the indigenous organizations that represent the Ignaciano community, and he had served as Secretary of Land and Territory during part of an extended legal battle to title land that indigenous communities farmed and occupied throughout the municipality. During one of our conversations, he reflected on his experience with this legal activism.