This project began as a joint research project by Jens Temmen and Nicole Waller. Based on an International Symposium (American Territorialities 2016) and a Special Forum American Territorialities in the Journal of Transnational American Studies (2020), we reached out to scholars in the fields of Indigenous Studies, African American studies, legal studies, transpacific studies, archipelagic American studies, history, and geography to critically study discourses that construct(ed) the US as a contiguous nation-state, but also to bring these discourses into counterpoint with the many ways in which peoples and populations who were placed under US sovereignty have questioned US nation-state territoriality and envisioned relating to land and water “otherwise.”
Jens Temmen’s monograph The Territorialities of U.S. Imperialism(s): Conflicting Discourses of Sovereignty, Jurisdiction and Territoriy in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Legal Texts and Indigenous Life Writing (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2020) sets into relation U.S. imperial and Indigenous conceptions of territoriality as articulated in U.S. legal texts and Indigenous life writing in the 19th century. It analyzes the ways in which U.S. legal texts as “legal fictions” narratively press to affirm the United States’ territorial sovereignty and coherence in spite of its reliance on a variety of imperial practices that flexibly disconnect and (re)connect U.S. sovereignty, jurisdiction and territory. At the same time, the book acknowledges Indigenous life writing as legal texts in their own right and with full juridical force, which aim to highlight the heterogeneity of U.S. national territory both from their individual perspectives and in conversation with these legal fictions. Through this, the book’s analysis contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the coloniality of U.S. legal fictions, while highlighting territoriality as a key concept in the fashioning of the narrative of U.S. imperialism.
Nicole Waller’s “Connecting Atlantic and Pacific: Theorizing the Arctic.” Atlantic Studies 15.2 (2018) traces the international dispute over the Northwest Passage and the contemporary assessment of new models of sovereignty in the Arctic region and argues for a decolonial reading of these debates that takes into account Indigenous sovereignty, in particular Canadian Inuit theories and practices that relate to the Arctic as the “Inuit Sea.”
Her latest work follows the lead of scholars in Black geographies to study the many ways in which African American literature envisions modes of relating to land and landscape in North America.