Dr. Kasey Keeler has won a prestigious Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Faculty Fellowship from the Institute for Research in the Humanities at UW–Madison, which will support new research and writing for her next book project. The project, she writes, “resists and challenges narratives of American Indians as anti-capitalist and instead centers them in land transactions. More, [it considers] what it means to be Native and a landowner; what it means to be dispossessed of land, yet purchase land; what it means to be houseless on traditional land; and what cultural revitalization through property can look like.”
The project follows years of research by Dr. Keeler on related issues, which she discussed with Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) in late 2019 for a podcast by APM Reports, “Uprooted: The 1950s plan to erase Indian Country.” Though many Americans think of Indian removal policies as the stuff of centuries past, Keeler’s work illustrates the far more recent efforts at relocation—and not just to reservations but more often to cities and suburbs, as she described in an article in the journal Native American and Indigenous Studies, “Putting people where they belong: American Indian housing policy in the mid-twentieth century.”
“Relocation worked to move Indian people into the urban core [while] white folks moved into suburban communities. Relocation is about assimilation, but it’s also very much about racism and who was entitled to what sort of housing and where,” she told MPR. Her first book, American Indians and the American Dream: Policies, Place, and Property in Minnesota, is currently under contract with the University of Minnesota Press. Her next project, tentatively titled, Tribal Capitalism: The Politics of American Indian Land, Property, and Identity, will be the main effort of her fellowship.
The Institute for Research in the Humanities (IRH) awards some 40-45 fellowships to internal and external applicants each year, and just two of these in the Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity (REI) specialization. These REI fellowships are for UW–Madison faculty working on projects that focus directly on race, ethnicity, and/or indigeneity in any part of the world and historical period and that foster comparative study of these issues with a clear significance for the humanities. REI fellows receive their regular salary and are released from teaching and service duties for the semester of the fellowship so that they may undertake full-time research and participate in the intellectual community of the IRH, including attending weekly seminars and other events, having office space alongside other fellows, and presenting their research to them as well.
“I’m really looking forward to having time to focus on research and writing, something that is hard to come by as a junior scholar,” says Dr. Keeler, assistant professor of Civil Society and Community Studies and of American Indian Studies. “The IRH fellowship will allow me to really participate in an interdisciplinary environment, as so much of my work is based in the humanities, during such an important stage of a new project, and I’m excited for the connections I’ll be able to make with other faculty from across campus.”
Learn more about Dr. Keeler, including her own educational path through University of Wisconsin–Madison, and hear her in a recent conversation with community radio station WORT about Indigenous Peoples Week.