Sam Grey is a PhD candidate in political theory and comparative politics, within which she has focused her reading on non-Western political theory, Indigenous comparative politics, feminist and gender analyses, and methodological issues. Sam’s primary research interests are political virtue, memory, the politics of emotion, and reparations for historical injustice (including, or especially, transitional justice mechanisms). These engagements converge in her dissertation on unforgiveness and Indigenous-Settler irreconciliation in Minnesota/Mini Sota Macoce.
Sam’s doctoral work is supported by the Fulbright Program, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Federation of University Women.
areas of expertise / areas of competence
- comparative politics & international development
- political theory (esp. the Early Modern period)
- Indigenous comparative politics
- qualitative (esp. feminist & Indigenous) social science research methodologies
- transitional justice, reconciliation, and reparations
- politics of memory
- feminist & gender analyses
- Settler colonialism, decolonization, and anti-colonialism
- food systems politics (esp. food sovereignty)
- politics of emotion
(un)forgiveness & political virtue
Forgiveness is a powerful idea. Over time, this key religious virtue became a catalyst of peaceful unity in liberal political thought – yet something important was lost in the transition. One way to probe that loss is to examine the convergence of religious and civic virtue in the project of reconciliation, where forgiveness is so often invoked. Beginning with a genealogy of forgiveness in both Anglo‐European political thought and in Western societies, my work focuses historical inquiry and theory‐building through reconciliation processes, since theological and political conceptions of forgiveness merge in (and may well find their highest mutual expression through) reparations politics. Such an approach seeks a deeper and broader understanding of complex individual, communal, societal, and global phenomena – which sit at the intersection of tradition, culture, and history – in the construction and expression of political virtue. With their histories of forced conversion and assimilation, Settler colonial societies provide particularly fruitful ground for such an enquiry. If seeking and bestowing forgiveness is now a common reparations praxis, and forgiveness is thus profoundly political in both content and intent, the virtue of forgiveness emerges as a cardinal subject of political analysis. In the many states now moving through (or past) Indigenous-Settler reconciliation projects, what does it mean to be unforgiving? Or unforgiven?
(ir)reconciliation & the politics of emotion
An effort to understand colonial history and address the fallout of historical injustice in Settler states cannot proceed without an appreciation of the full scope of the affective politics at play. This, in turn, cannot proceed without evidence from communities themselves – and in particular from those individuals and groups excluded from, or arrayed against, contemporary reconciliation initiatives. My work answers the lack of research on resistance to reconciliation by examining the ways in which Dakota and Settler Minnesotans are coping with the burden of memory in the face of the current, ostensibly ‘transitional moment’ in Indigenous-Settler relations, and how ethical frameworks position these labours in both affective and political space. Of particular interest is the politics of emotion – specifically the political work accomplished by retributivism, the feeling and expression of which seeks to hold the historical moment open and to challenge those projects intent on “turning the page.” With the whole of the Anglosphere now embroiled in transitional justice processes, at the same time as Indigenous nations and Settler groups are increasingly engaging in activism challenging reconciliation as a political praxis, an investigation of Indigenous-Settler ‘irreconciliation’ is both timely and necessary.