New Book Talk: Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality and Sovereignty in Native America

Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA)

CSREA’s New Book Talks highlight new and notable works studying race, ethnicity, and indigeneity from scholars both internal and external to Brown. They facilitate thought-provoking and critical engagement with emerging scholarship. View the entire New Book Talks series lineup here.

Before 1492, Indigenous communities across North America included people who identified as neither male nor female, but both. After European colonizers invaded, centuries of violence and systematic persecution followed, imperiling the existence of people who today call themselves Two-Spirits, an umbrella term denoting feminine and masculine qualities in one person. Drawing on written sources, archaeological evidence, art, and oral storytelling, Reclaiming Two-Spirits reveals how colonizers used language to denigrate and erase Two-Spirit people from history. Their efforts ultimately failed, and the work amplifies Two-Spirit voices, reconnecting their history to Native nations in the 21st century.

After Professor Smithers’s presentation, there will be a moderated discussion with the audience. We welcome your questions!

Learn more about the book here.


About the Author

Gregory Smithers is a Professor of American History and Eminent Scholar (2019-2024) in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Davis. He has taught in California, Hawaii, Scotland, and Ohio, and is currently a British Academy Global Professor, based in the Treatied Spaces research cluster at the University of Hull.

His research and writing focuses on the histories of Indigenous people and African Americans from the eighteenth century to the present. He is particularly interested in the rich history of the Cherokee people, Indigenous history from the Mountain South to California and the Southwest Pacific, and environmental history. His work is devoted to narrating the past in ways that are publicly accessible and connect with issues of social justice, environmental sustainability, and racial and gender equity.