Reading Territory

Indigenous and Black Freedom, Removal, and the Nineteenth-Century State

By Kathryn Walkiewicz

314 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7295-3
    Published: April 2023
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7294-6
    Published: April 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7296-0
    Published: March 2023
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6128-3
    Published: March 2023

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The formation of new states was an essential feature of US expansion throughout the long nineteenth century, and debates over statehood and states' rights were waged not only in legislative assemblies but also in newspapers, maps, land surveys, and other forms of print and visual culture. Assessing these texts and archives, Kathryn Walkiewicz theorizes the logics of federalism and states' rights in the production of US empire, revealing how they were used to imagine states into existence while clashing with relational forms of territoriality asserted by Indigenous and Black people. 

Walkiewicz centers her analysis on statehood movements to create the places now called Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Cuba, and Oklahoma. In each case she shows that Indigenous dispossession and anti-Blackness scaffolded the settler-colonial project of establishing states' rights. But dissent and contestation by Indigenous and Black people imagined alternative paths, even as their exclusion and removal reshaped and renamed territory. By recovering this tension, Walkiewicz argues we more fully understand the role of state-centered discourse as an expression of settler colonialism. We also come to see the possibilities for a territorial ethic that insists on thinking beyond the boundaries of the state.

About the Author

Kathryn Walkiewicz is assistant professor in the Department of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.
For more information about Kathryn Walkiewicz, visit the Author Page.


“Walkiewicz’s book will interest historians primarily for its inventive readings of a wide array of sources, which she assembles in striking juxtapositions. . . . [H]er methods are justified by her aim to provide a usable past, and she is admirably forthright about the present-day concerns that inform her writing”–Journal of American History

"Walkiewicz draws on an impressive range of sources and scholarship to consider Indigenous and Black agency, conflict, alliance, and contestation against white supremacist ideologies behind state formation. This work is an intellectually and ethically compelling contribution to vital conversations in and between Indigenous studies, African American studies, and settler-colonial studies."—Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation), University of British Columbia

"Reading Territory is a rigorous examination of how Black and Native dispossession were carried out not simply at the level of nation but rather at more granular scales of state formation, law, and policy. Presenting the state as an essential site of white supremacist and colonialist violence, Walkiewicz reads a diverse assembly of periodicals, government and legal documents, literary texts, personal accounts, images, and more to reveal the local and regional scales at which Native and Black people contested settler colonialism and racism."—Brigitte Fielder, University of Wisconsin–Madison