Reading Territory: Indigenous and Black Freedom, Removal, and the Nineteenth-Century State


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

The formation of new states was an essential feature of US expansion throughout the long nineteenth century, and debates over statehood and states' rights were waged not only in legislative assemblies but also in newspapers, maps, land surveys, and other forms of print and visual culture. Assessing these texts and archives, Kathryn Walkiewicz theorizes the logics of federalism and states' rights in the production of US empire, revealing how they were used to imagine states into existence while clashing with relational forms of territoriality asserted by Indigenous and Black people.

Walkiewicz centers her analysis on statehood movements to create the places now called Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Cuba, and Oklahoma. In each case she shows that Indigenous dispossession and anti- Blackness scaffolded the settler-colonial project of establishing states' rights. But dissent and contestation by Indigenous and Black people imagined alternative paths, even as their exclusion and removal reshaped and renamed territory. By recovering this tension, Walkiewicz argues we more fully understand the role of state-centered discourse as an expression of settler colonialism. We also come to see the possibilities for a territorial ethic that insists on thinking beyond the boundaries of the state.


Kathryn Walkiewicz (walk-uh-wits) is an enrolled citizen of Cherokee Nation and an assistant professor of Literature at UC San Diego and currently serves as associate director of the Indigenous Futures Institute (IFI). Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Literature, ASAP/Journal, J19, NAIS, Transmotion, Walt Whitman Quarterly, and the Rumpus. She co-edited The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing after Removal with Geary Hobson and Janet McAdams (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010), and their most recent book , Reading Territory: Indigenous and Black Freedom, Removal, and the Nineteenth-Century State, was released from the University of North Carolina Press in 2023. They held an AAS-National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society in 2021, and was elected to AAS membership in 2022.