International Symposium


Biopolitics – Geopolitics – Sovereignty – Life:

Settler Colonialisms and Indigenous Presences in North America


University of Mainz, Germany, 25-27 June 2015

Transnational American Studies Institute


Organizers: Dr. René Dietrich (JGU Mainz), Prof. Dr. Kerstin Knopf (U Bremen)


This conference took issue with biopolitics and geopolitics in the settler nations of North America, executed through continuing techniques of dispossession, racialization, and surveillance of Indigenous peoples, as well as with corresponding forms of sovereignty, agency, and life exercised in the matrix of biopower.

In order to highlight how life itself is situated at a crucial junction between bio- and geopolitics, this conference aimed at advancing recent work by exploring and theorizing the different politics and epistemologies (concepts, forms, knowledges) of life in settler and Indigenous contexts in relation to bio- and geopolitical practices. It sought to investigate how these can help to formulate ‘life’ as a category for political analysis and critique in settler-Indigenous relations, in evolving formations of sovereignty and agency, and in the struggle for decolonization.

Scholars of various disciplines engaged in these issues thus came to Mainz to discuss how an in-depth exploration of ‘life’ as a critical concept and political category in the tension between bio- and geopolitical practices and Indigenous forms of sovereignty and agency helps to further illuminate the complex, contested and still largely asymmetrical relations and interactions between settler colonialisms and Indigenous presences in North America. The results of this symposium will be published in an essay collection.

See here for a conference report


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Artwork: "Patriotism Percentages" from "Four Things You Can Do with Your Chart for Calculating Quantum of Indian Blood" by Deborah A. Miranda, reprinted with permission of artist.

Photograph: "Nuu-chah-nulth logging road blockade site" by Aldo de Moor


Sponsored by

The German Research Foundation (DFG)

Transnational American Studies Institute at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz