The Endemics of Pandemics at the Settler University

This presentation provides an analysis of the coterminous events of the global pandemic and the viral uprisings against fascism, anti-Black racism, and state violence as they differently but relatedly elucidate the failures of racial capitalism and the settler state and thus, by extension, the promise and prospect of the university. The states of illness, precarity and unfreedom laid bare by these events further expose colonialism and white supremacy as the most virulent pre-existing conditions. Within this context, the university marches on, committed to ‘business-as-almost-usual’ despite the risk to (some) lives and wellbeing.

Lost between the assurances of ‘safe openings’ and the proliferation of ‘anti-racist’ statements is the sense of how such matters are co-implicated and refract the calculus endemic to settler colonialism: the presumption that only some lives matter, others are expendable, and still others structured as surplus or earmarked for elimination. Indeed, in the face of its own precarity, the university has doubled down, pledging ever-more allegiance to the founding ideas of modern liberalism – (academic) freedom, unity, and tolerance – as if they aren’t the hand-maidens of racialized and colonialist logics.

Professor Grande also explores the lack of posed alternatives to ‘re-opening’ the university not simply as a failure of imagination but rather as the ‘success’ or hegemony of settler epistemes, thinking instead about what education would look like if we took seriously the task of reckoning with the foreclosures of the settler state as a shared pedagogical project. In this work, she build upon Black and Indigenous modes of study and struggle that have long engaged knowledge and knowledge making for the purposes of collective well-being, defining praxes that affirm modes of being outside of and beyond productivist and imperial logics.


Professor Sandy Grande is a Professor of Political Science and Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Connecticut with affiliations in American Studies, Philosophy, and the Race, Ethnicity and Politics program. Her research and teaching interfaces Native American and Indigenous Studies with critical theory toward the development of more nuanced analyses of the colonial present. She was recently awarded the Ford Foundation, Senior Fellowship (2019-2020) for a project on Indigenous Elders and aging. Her book, Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought was published in a 10th anniversary edition and a Portuguese translation is anticipated to be published in Brazil in 2021. She has also published numerous book chapters and articles including: Accumulation of the Primitive: The Limits of Liberalism and the Politics of Occupy Wall Street, The Journal of Settler Colonial Studies; Refusing the University in Toward What Justice?; “American Indian Geographies of Identity and Power,” Harvard Educational Review; and, “Red-ding the Word and the World” In, Paulo Freire’s Intellectual Roots: Toward Historicity in Praxis. She is also a founding member of New York Stands for Standing Rock, a group of scholars and activists that forwards the aims of Native American and Indigenous sovereignty and resurgence. As one of their projects, they published the Standing Rock Syllabus. In addition to her academic and organizing work, she has provided eldercare for her parents for over ten years and remains the primary caregiver for her 92-yr. old father.


Professor Sarah Maddison, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Arts and co-director of the Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration, the University of Melbourne. She is particularly interested in work that helps reconceptualise political relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian settler state, including critical examinations of a range of relevant public policies. Her recent work has focused on the treaty process in Victoria, and she is currently working with the Australian Centre’s Deputy Director, Julia Hurst, exploring the role of truth-telling in treaty making. Sarah has also designed the Professional Certificate in Treaty, which includes the Preparing for Treaty series of Melbourne MicroCerts.

Sarah has published widely in international journals and is the author or editor of nine books including, most recently, The Colonial Fantasy: Why white Australia can’t solve black problems (2019). Her other books in the field include The Limits of Settler Colonial Reconciliation (2016), Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation (2015), Beyond White Guilt (2011), Unsettling the Settler State (2011), and Black Politics (2009). Sarah has led numerous research projects and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2011-14, undertaking a project that examined reconciliation in Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Guatemala. Her current ARC project is exploring intersections in Indigenous and settler governance regimes.

The presenters have granted permission for this recording to be used for personal viewing and educational purposes.