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SBU Launches Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative

Joseph pierce 2023
Joseph pierce 2023
Associate professor Joseph M. Pierce

Joseph M. Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature, was recently named the inaugural director of the forthcoming Native American and Indigenous Studies initiative in the College of Arts and Sciences

Currently in early stages of development, the new initiative aims to widely share the lives, experiences, and knowledge of Indigenous peoples. Programming and curricular development will be responsive to the context of Indigenous peoples on Long Island, to the communities whose land the University occupies, and to the history of settler colonialism and Indigenous practices across the Americas and globally. 

“I’m honored to be selected as the inaugural director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies initiative, and truly excited about the opportunity to build something new at Stony Brook,” said Pierce. “As a Cherokee Nation citizen, I am proud to be working toward opening new pathways for Indigenous students, faculty, and staff, and hope that we can build strong relationships with community members and Indigenous tribes in the New York area.” 

Axel Drees, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said there has been an ongoing discussion to start such an initiative at Stony Brook.  

“With Stony Brook recently being named as the anchor of the New York Climate Exchange, the timing to introduce a Native American and Indigenous Studies initiative just seems right,” said Drees, who is also a distinguished professor of Physics. “The initiative will have a very strong environmental and climate component, and students will benefit from the knowledge and history that Indigenous peoples bring to that discussion. And, given his expertise and commitment to Indigenous studies, Joseph Pierce is the natural choice as the inaugural director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies initiative. I look forward to working with him and other constituencies as we continue the process of  defining the initiative and how it can best provide our students with a curriculum they did not previously have access to at Stony Brook.” 

Andrew Newman, professor and current chair of the Department of English, serves as chair of a committee representing a wide range of disciplines that is advising Interim Dean Drees on next steps, including the formation of a steering committee comprised of community members and Stony Brook faculty. 

“I really commend the University’s leadership for recognizing the importance of Native American and Indigenous Studies to our academic mission by supporting this initiative,” said Newman. ”As the program develops, I expect we’ll see that it’s not simply a narrow specialization, but rather an interdisciplinary field that informs everything else that we study across the curriculum.”

The first phase of the Native American and Indigenous Studies initiative will include discussions of hiring interdisciplinary faculty experts to reside in the arts, humanities and social sciences, particularly those faculty who specialize in transdisciplinary topics including environmental justice and sustainability, and Indigenous methodologies.

The initiative will also explore the launch of a minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies. The minor would provide undergraduate students with opportunities to explore the history, art, social and political interests, languages, and cultures of Indigenous peoples. The aim is to provide an enriching program that will enlighten students of the contributions, methodologies, and aspirations of Indigenous scholars and scholarship throughout history. The minor would draw on existing course offerings across several departments and schools, as well as a range of new courses designed to enhance the student experience. 

Pierce’s research focuses on the intersections of kinship, gender, sexuality, and race in Latin America, 19th century literature and culture, queer studies, Indigenous studies, and hemispheric approaches to citizenship and belonging. By interrogating art, photography, literature, and cinematic portrayals of Indigenous peoples, his new monograph, Speculative Relations: Indigenous Worlding and Repair, develops a method of engaging with ancestral and futurist worlding practices that defy normative expectations of Indigenous erasure. It imagines pathways for healing, surviving, and repairing knowledge systems that have been erased or hidden through colonial violence.

Over the next several months, Pierce will be working with various stakeholders to develop curriculum, programming, and coordinate community engagement. More information on the Native American and Indigenous Studies initiative will be shared as progress unfolds. 


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  • Stony Brook University is very lucky to have Joseph Pierce and Andrew Newman to lead us as we fulfill this initiative.

  • As a SBU alumna and Seneca/Iroquois nation member, I’m thrilled to see this! When I attended SBU, I was one of only a few Indigenous students. Hopefully more Seneca, Iroquois and Indigenous people will come to Stony Brook, as it’s such a great school.

  • I hope some continuing education courses for the public are developed as part of the initiative. I would be interested in such courses! Thanks.

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