Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


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My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Transit of Empire

The advance copies of Jodi Byrd's new book The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism have arrived! The book is published by the University of Minnesota Press, as part of an important book series called "First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies."

Last week, I wrote here about the recognition given to Robert Warrior and LeAnne Howe in the context of NAISA's prizes for the "Most Influential Books in Native American and Indigenous Studies of the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century." And now Byrd--who teaches in English and in American Indian Studies--adds to our strength and visibility in this field with a book that is likely to be enormously influential during the century's second decade.

Here is a book description, pasted in from the press' website: "In 1761 and again in 1769, European scientists raced around the world to observe the transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event in which the planet Venus passes in front of the sun. In The Transit of Empire, Jodi A. Byrd explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement that serves as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd argues that contemporary U.S. empire expands itself through a transferable “Indianness” that facilitates acquisitions of lands, territories, and resources.

Examining an array of literary texts, historical moments, and pending legislations—from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s vote in 2007 to expel Cherokee Freedmen to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill—Byrd demonstrates that inclusion into the multicultural cosmopole does not end colonialism as it is purported to do. Rather, that inclusion is the very site of the colonization that feeds U.S. empire.

Byrd contends that the colonization of American Indian and indigenous nations is the necessary ground from which to reimagine a future where the losses of indigenous peoples are not only visible and, in turn, grieveable, but where indigenous peoples have agency to transform life on their own lands and on their own terms."

Congratulations, Jodi!

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