Looking back on Tucson

Today’s post is by UMP editor Jason Weidemann, who acquires books in sociology, media studies, native studies, anthropology and geography, among other disciplines.


In May I had the opportunity to attend the annual Native American and Indigenous Studies meeting in Tucson, Arizona. Always an energetic and passionate gathering, this year’s was even more so given that the meeting took place against the backdrop of Arizona’s recent passage of a stringent new immigration law and a measure banning ethnic studies courses in public schools.

Despite some calls for NAISA to switch locations or to cancel altogether, the meeting went ahead, though with some important changes. Several panels were transformed to deal directly with the immigration and ethnic studies bills, allowing Indigenous scholars who had traveled from around the world to form important connections with local activists. The opening night’s ceremonies, in which local tribal leaders addressed the association, ended with a plenary addressing the impact of these bills on local Indian tribes and high school students. Many NAISA members took part in a protest in downtown Tucson at the US Immigration Court organized by the O’odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective. And NAISA president Robert Warrior and Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva took part in a forum with NAISA members to talk about the impact of the anti-ethnic studies bill.

The level of community involvement and media attention that NAISA’s presence in Tucson generated was unprecedented. I travel to a lot of academic conferences, and they often feel insular—confined to a downtown hotel, scholars gather in meeting rooms or windowless exhibit halls and apart from the occasional off-site field trip or local interest story, creating little connection with the surrounding community and their concerns.

So it was exciting for me to see the level of attention NAISA’s meeting in Tucson generated. Since the meeting in May, I’ve been collecting media links regarding the NAISA’s annual meeting, which I thought I would share:

American Indian Scholars Meet in Tucson/Arizona Public Media (video featuring NAISA president Robert Warrior, pictured at left)

Convention comes to Tucson despite calls for boycott/KVOA.com (video)

Local Native American Tribe unique perspective on SB 1070/KVOA.com (video) The camera crew actually set up in our book-exhibit booth for this video — you’ll find a brief cameo appearance of UMP staffers around 0:56.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed also posted a story on the meeting.

-J. Kehaulani Kauanui, an associate professor of anthropology at American studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, conducts an excellent radio show, Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond, which is archived here. Two episodes of interest would be the interview with Robert Warrior and the episode on the Indigenous implications of Arizona SB 1070.

-Additional links can also be found on NAISA’s website.

If you have other links about the meeting, please share them with us below or e-mail me at weide007@umn.edu.

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