Power and Progress on the Prairie

Colloquium | October 22 | 4-5:30 p.m. |  Shorb House, Latinx Research Center

 2547 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94720

 Tom Biolsi, Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

 Center for Native American Issues Research on, Native American Studies, Native American Student Development, American Indian Graduate Program, American Indian Graduate Student Association

This talk will be based on Prof. Biolsi’s recently published book, Power and Progress on the Prairie, which traces the history of “modernization,” “improvement,” or “progress” on Rosebud Reservation. The central question of the book is how ideas about making things “better” were invented and applied to the people—both Indian and white—and the land. The cases examined include plans to “civilize” Indians and “modernize” farmers; to rationally manage agricultural production and land-use; to mitigate environmental problems; to “rationalize” plans for nuclear war to increase the likelihood of “national survival”; and to extend voting rights to Lakota people. Each of these plans or programs is an example of what Biolsi calls governing. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault on governmentality, the book aims to understand how “problems” requiring correction came into public focus, or were actively made by experts with “remedies” or “solutions” in search of problems to fix.