Kim Tallbear’s rigorous and meticulous approach defies research trends and epistemological categorization. She may not identify with the language of the Indigenous future, but her work greatly lends to the analysis of one. Tallbear’s experience in the field of genomics has been the foundation of her feminist and Indigenous interventions into the sciences in order to resist objectifying colonial logics within its disciplines. Tallbear calls for an integration of Indigenous peoples within the sciences, and science within Indigenous communities, to produce self-determined subjects and collaborators, rather than objects. Tallbear often speaks to histories of colonial exploitation within the sciences, the treatment of Indigenous bodies as biological resources, raw materials, and locations of experiment. Science has been, and continues to be, central to the colonial project. As such, Indigenous researchers and communities must endeavour to influence science. Hearing Tallbear speak to these harrowing realities is almost always a reminder that history repeats itself; that empowering Indigenous communities within the sciences is essential to our resistance as peoples.
While not explicitly within the field of genetic science, some of her most engaging theory has been done in this space, wherein she imagines ways of defining cellular life, animacy, and relationality outside the constructs of Western thought. Kim Tallbear’s is a theory that has thought through queer inhumanisms, imaging ourselves away from the bounds of human and non-human binaries, pointing to relationship-based futures. She has questioned the limits of settler love, asserting, “I live and work in pursuit of new ways of loving, lusting, and losing amidst the ruins and survivals together of my ancestors’ ways of relating (The Critical Polyamorist),” borrowing from Eben S. Kirksey to describe our relationships, our bodies, and our resurgence as sites of biocultural hope. Tallbear’s work articulates both new and remembered ways of relating meant to emancipate us into this future imaginary of care, a future that centres Indigenous ways of relating, kinship, and love ways as embodied peoplehood. Kim Tallbear’s upcoming lecture for the Future Imaginary Lecture Series at Concordia University will speak to the current academic buzzword “anthropocene,” an era marked by the human consumption of human and non-human kin. Tallbear will apply these new ways of relating she speaks so eloquently of throughout her work to this space, warning us that the alternative is the demise of all our relations.
Text by Lindsay Nixon