“Presencing” and Praxis

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith - Fear

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Fear

Sandrina de Finney writes in her essay, “Under the Shadow of Empire: Indigeneous Girls’ Presencing as Decolonizing Force,” (Mitchell and Rentschler, eds. Girlhood and the Politics of Place) that “[a]s a disruptive practice, I look for counternormative conceptual frameworks that offer openings to rethink trauma in our work with Indigenous girls. One such framework is Leanne Simpson’s notion that acts of presence are integral to Indigenous resurgence. Simpson emphasizes that decolonization involves understanding and generating meaning ‘through engagement, presence, and process.’ She asserts that ‘Indigenous societies were societies of presence. Our processes – be they political, spiritual, education or healing – required a higher degree of presence than modern colonial existence’” (2016, 21-22). Through community and the giving presence of the community’s wide stance on demarcating modes of obstruction come “engagement and visibility” (2016, 22). Through community comes resurgence and through that, “girls’ everyday act of presence” (2016, 22). Presence is an act that counters normative weights that seek to subdue or act as tranquilizers of peaceful negotiation to one’s lifeforce. 

There are those who feel that “presencing” requires more formal redress, such as theology that counters exploitation and dominant histories. Robert Warrior, in his article, “Canaanites, Cowboys, and Indians,” commented on the work of some activist Christians to aid Indigenous communities in developing a religio-magnified praxis, but notes, “Liberals and conservatives alike have too often surveyed the conditions of Native Americans and decided to come to the rescue, always using their methods, their ideas, and their programs. The idea that Indians might know best how to address their own problems seemingly lost on these well-meaning folks” (1989, 2). That an introductory narrative might still need to be established gives insight in the continuous othering by even those that promote seeking an assisting role. The space they provide is not merely inclusion, but an insertive, including us, too. 

Alicia Arrizon, in her article, “Mythical Performativity: Relocating Aztlan in Chicana Feminist Cultural Productions,” (2000) associates ideas and space with performative standing, stating, 

The term “Aztlán” redefines space. Its discursive configurations, ranging from ancient mythology to land annexation, are engaged repeatedly in Chicano cultural studies and Chicana feminist practices. From the “manifesto” of the nationalist Chicano movement to the radical feminist perspectives in Cherríe Moraga’s queer configurations of space and bodies, the genealogy of Aztlán affects cultural identity, shaping the ongoing modifications—and sometimes, commodifications—of the collectivity. According to myth, Aztlán is the ancestral homeland in the north that the Aztecs left in 1168 when they journeyed southward to found the promised land, Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), in 1325. (2000, 23)

Whether the chemistry of progressive whites to aid with their self-identified superior resources or the magnitude of El Plan de Aztlán at the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver in 1969, “presencing” requires far fewer resources or organized, instructive methods. There is a statement adopted by the disabled community, “my existence is resistance.” The space of the body is the space of mind that permits and instructs deciphered coalesced insights that weakens kingdoms, i.e., colonial empires. That being said. It is not without organization in any capacity that instructs the next generation to displace learned reasoning of conceding compromises. The insistence from Robert Warrior that the Exodus model is worth being emulated, constructive insights are only insights. Thoughts that are intended to strengthen critical thinking, even ill-formed white-centered permutations, do just that (as it is often discovered), inspire a cacophony of ideas that are naturally selected, sorted, and reasoned out. Often in such a way that some elders will hear the sound reason of child’s request and relay an often repeated colloquialism, “out of the mouth of babes.” “Presencing” is the identification of a social unit’s natural way of healing as well as its instinctive identification of that which seems to impose a pre-manufactured order. 

Such imposed order comes from location. Steve Pile, in his work, The Body and the City: Psychoanalysis, Space, and Subjectivity, writes that “there are no accepted psychoanalytic concepts which can be easily transposed into, superimposed onto, or mapped alongside geography – regardless of the kind of geography […] It is easy to claim that psychoanalysis has been systematically misrepresented, but I would prefer to suggest that particular aspects of psychoanalysis have been selected and presented as if they were symptomatic of the whole approach” (1996, 61). Pile is suggesting, in his work, that psychoanalytical frameworks have been present in treatments of space and place from the onset, and no doubt this returns us to an ever more accessible location of “Leanne Simpson’s notion that acts of presence are integral to Indigenous resurgence” (to return to Sandrina de Finney cited above). Recording, writing, stenciling children’s insights into the width of colonial influence on their everyday lives is not really without an aspect of a practice of the very psychoanalysis of space that Pile is referring to.

At the time of the book’s publication, 1996, Pile stated that psychoanalysis was a “marginal” resource for geographers (61). With strides in interdisciplinarity, that has certainly become less so and though arguably Neo-Freudian, Pile is not without a similitude of the structuralism of Jung that so many post-modernist found influencing win with. At the very least, Pile’s constructs points to another field, that of developmental psychology, as being an even more obvious candidate for a marriage with humanist, feminist geography. The geography of de Finney, citing quotes from children as a merit of space and place is not without the implications of an assumed background in developmental psychology, though that does not make the practice whole. To immerse ourselves not only in “what is benefitted by” but also “what benefits” serves to take the most obvious indicators of space and place and developmental psychology towards a progressive dire praxis where the concept of the universal can at the least have some neighboring constituents towards what needs have to be met for sustained progress of societal and inclusive networks of ontological abode. 

Painting: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith – “Fear”