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Melanie Yazzie

2018-2019

Katrin H. Lamon Fellow
Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor
Department of Native American Studies and the Department of American Studies
University of New Mexico

Melanie Yazzie

Diné Life in an Age of Death: Biopolitical Struggle and Relational Possibility

Dr. Yazzie’s book Diné Life in an Age of Death: Biopolitical Struggle and Relational Possibility examines two biopolitical (state power over both the physical and political bodies of a population) modalities through which twentieth-century Navajo history and life were organized, shaped, and contested. The first was experimental biopolitics, which formed in the laboratories of state-sponsored social science research programs in the 1940s and 1950s. This research normalized biopolitical notions of self-help and economization by experimenting on Navajo subjects. The second biopolitical modality, emerging in the 1960s, was the rise of Navajo dependency on resource extraction. By the early 1970s, Navajo grassroots movements were contesting extractive biopolitics, developing a framework and theory of life called relationality. Relationality generated different political and ontological possibilities while also laying bare the violence of biopolitical modes of economic and political development. Dr. Yazzie traces these histories and builds on relationality to ground the book’s larger concerns with the biopolitics of settler colonialism.

Generous funding for this Fellowship provided by the Katrin H. Lamon Endowment.