“Oppos[e na/i]tional Agency” lyrics and explanation

In my final year at the University of Toronto, I took an upper year Anthropology course, “Native America and the State.” For the major paper, we were asked to write about Native fisheries in inland BC, 1849-1925. Anticipating that nobody would ever want to read a paper I wrote on that, and certainly not wanting to write something boring, I opted to turn in a one page rap instead of an eight page paper. Many seemed skeptical that such a thing can be done (one page when eight were asked? Rap as essay? No citations, bibliography or title page? Oral presentation?), but my professor gave me an A+ and nominated me for the Richard B Lee Award for “most outstanding student essay in critical anthropology.” So now we know. Yes, yes it can.

Verse 1:
When did agree, democratically,
How to divide coercive authority?
The right to write history and decide what’s as formerly?

Dominion officials conceded jurisdiction
To a governing body that treats rights as fictions
To rich whites benedictions, to most others afflictions
Ignoring pre-existing Native legal traditions

To propagate logics of “land improvement,”
They obfuscated freedom of animal movement
So meant maturation of this state puppet show:
Problems for the migration of salmon and buffalo!
Way to show why we need system wide contestation
Adaptation, innovation, patron annihilation

The implications of oppositional land dividing:
Providing only minimal per capita acreage
While Native freedoms continue to haemorrhage!

Chorus:
Foucault distinguished sovereign from government,
Tania Li and Nugent redefined state assessment.

Processes and projects frame coercive logics
Practices and classist twists express interests of activists
And pacifists and populists might only care for opulence
And the dominant’s centrality obscures true plurality
Every complex system displays dynamicality!

So as positions flip, with the shifting conditions,
You should never base a theory on just strict oppositions!

Verse 2:
With our presuppositions focusing on traditions
Of wage labour at the fisheries we might make an omission

Employed for five months a year
Survive the winter in fear
Living with what you’re given’s no way to make a career
But competing for fish stocks still beats trying to farm rocks
And independent boat owners had to put up with cost blocks

So go to canneries for guarantees of small degrees of dignities
But your expertise still gets traded in for Japanese
Employer rejection because of kinship connections?
Alienating and deprecating at new heights of perfection!

[instrumental]

Verse 3:
Our governing system was never smooth on its surfaces
But a cacophony of voices working at cross purposes
Services ensuring land purchases, practices of exclusion
Suffusion by settlers, unceded land’s prostitution, creating confusion

Leaving Indian Affairs to clean up what’s theirs
A process that could only help the splitting of hairs
Pseudo-representation! Hegem’nous instrumentation!
Sincerity of advocacy only furthered subjectification

Allowed to forget the reason for reserve allotment
Access was opened up by the fisheries department
Today the damage’s unmended, results no-one intended
Well meaning causes unduly commended

Dynamic disuniformity generated deformity
Scornfully, at turns informally, cordially or forcibly
Sovereign authority inflicted this paucity on what was the majority
Whatever became of constitutional priority?

Private property, once sought for protection,
Quickly became used as a tool for dispossession

Chorus:
Foucault distinguished sovereign from government,
Tania Li and Nugent redefined state assessment.

Processes and projects frame coercive logics
Practices and classist twists express interests of activists
And pacifists and populists might only care for opulence
And the dominant’s centrality obscures true plurality
Every complex system displays dynamicality!

So as positions flip, with the shifting conditions,
You should never base a theory on just strict oppositions!

——————————————————————————————————————–

At one point serious efforts were made to develop and record tabla accompaniment and a solo for this. We sounded great together, but there were a couple parts where the tabla still needed a lot of work and we eventually got sidetracked and didn’t finish it. Eventually I hope there’ll be a good recording. In the meantime, if you want to hear it, buy me a drink or something and I might spit it for you.

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