Blackened Faces and Ticker-Tape Parades: Situating the Leviathan in Lakota and Euroamerican Conceptions of War
Beier, J. Marshall
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It is in seeking to draw out the essential functional differences between the blackened faces of the Lakota warriors and the ticker-tape parades of the Euroamerican ones that we encounter some important implications for security studies. As R.B.J. Walker has observed, what is at stake for adherents to mainstream theoretical approaches to security studies is, fundamentally, “the constitutive account of the political that has made the prevailing accounts of security seem so plausible.” Imperiled in any contestation of the appropriateness of the state as the referent object of security, then, are deeply-held commitments with regard to the possibilities of political order itself — possibilities which are presumed to begin and end with the state. Thus, Michael C. Williams and Keith Krause propose that this is “perhaps the central reason why the orthodoxy of security studies has been so resistant to taking account of current transformative trends (usually by denying their relevance) that seem to challenge its analytical assumptions.” If what is most jealously guarded in traditional conceptions of security is, as Williams and Krause put it, “not simply a claim about the historical centrality of the state” but “a particular understanding about how the state resolves the problem of political order itself,” then an array of traditional Native North American knowledges and lifeways are doubly at odds with the orthodoxy of security studies: not only do they (re)present alternative — that is, non-state — possibilities of political order, but the denials of such possibilities which persist in mainstream constructions of their collective identity have been essential to state-building in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, many of the same assumptions which underpin the orthodoxy of security studies and its more fundamental political commitments may be found at the root of traditional anthropological and historiographical claims about Native North Americans which cast their pre-Columbian condition in terms of a Hobbesian state of nature. It is therefore instructive to consider some of these accounts and to assess both the integrity of the evidence upon which they rest and the extent to which they can or cannot be reconciled with the traditional worldviews and lifeways of the peoples to which they refer. Finally, the insights garnered from this exercise will be brought to bear in support of the proposition that the mainstream theoretical approaches to security studies are themselves implicated in the ongoing maintenance and reproduction of advanced colonialism.