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9177 - Hopi Tradition as Jurisdiction: The legal discourses of Hopi Sovereignty

In our current socio-political moment, indigenous demands to control representations of their cultures, and the claims to political sovereignty that go along with them, appear to some as inauthentic, anachronistic, re-workings of native nationhood in the image of settler modes of state power . This essay proposes a reconsideration of indigenous “culture politics,” using examples from the Hopi tribe and its legal system to suggest how their conceptualization and practices of sovereignty might repose on a deeply autochthonous understanding of Hopi tradition as a kind of juris diction – a speaking of Hopi law that presupposes its sovereignty even when asking after its limits. In the courtroom discourses of Hopi tribal jurisprudence, the limits that Hopi tradition generate for the Anglo-American style practices of Hopi tribal court resonate with tropes of tradition mobilized in moments of Hopi ceremonial authority and kinship. In both moments and through discourses of tradition, Hopi take exception to the exceptionality of sovereignty as much as, if not more than, they claim an affirmative right to enact their own mode of totalizing, unitary sovereign power. What emerges is a mode of sociopolitical action that, while appearing to replay Euro-American nation-state logics, in actual practice reveal a claim more deeply rooted in the potentialities of Hopi understandings of sovereignty as it emerges in the limit-oriented pragmatics of its juris-diction.  

Keywords: Hopi, Law, Sovereignty, Language

Author: Richland, Justin (University of Chicago, Ud States of Am / USA)

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