From an Ethics of Proximity to an Ethics of Connectivity
Risk, Mobility, and Deterritorialization in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior”
Pages 489 - 505
This essay examines how mobility, settler colonial structures of invasion, and invasive environmental practices produce a settler colonial eco-logic of mobility, which the documentary ‘Into America: The Ancestor’s Land’ (2012) by Nadine Zacharias and Angelo Baca (Navajo/Hopi) both displays and disrupts. The film documents the expulsion of Helen Yellowman, Angelo’s grandmother, and her family from their land in the 1950s in connection to environmental pollution and disregard of Navajo traditions. Furthermore, it places this case within a history of discursive and physical removals of Indigenous peoples that follow a settler colonial logic of elimination. Indigenous removal in turn is shown to be predicated on a dominant version of settler mobility centered on invading, acquiring, exploiting land—and abandoning it in pursuit of new land. The film’s own journey eastward, counter to the settlers’ westward invasion, uncovers the history of removal, recovers relationships to the land and environment rooted in Indigenous thought and practices, and thus troubles what Mishuana Goeman terms a “settler grammar of place.” It does so specifically by using the visual grammar of film to reframe conventional signifiers of mobility as specifically Indigenous: the road movie genre, the car, the road, and the map. To this end, the film uses a map that recasts U.S. regions as Indigenous national territories defined by distinct natural environments, suggesting a responsibility to the land based in Indigenous sovereignty. As it challenges unmarked settler formations and their destructive environmental practices, ‘Into America’ indicates alternative kinds of mobility on the land that interrupt settler colonial ecologics, and it highlights the interlocking aspects of environmental politics and decolonization within Indigenous movements that possess a transnationally unsettling force.