The Religious Origins of White Supremacy: Johnson v. M’Intosh and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery.
- Henry Luce Foundation
- Indigenous Values Initiative
- American Indian Law Alliance
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- The conference will take place at Syracuse University from 8-10 December 2023.
- Henry Luce Foundation
- Syracuse University
In the 1823 US Supreme Court decision, Johnson v M'Intosh, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote,"...discovery gave title to government...[and] the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives." This decision underpins US property law. Marshall's deliberate use of the word "discovery" is an intentional reference to 15th Century Catholic Papal Bulls, which stated that any Christian who "discovers" a land populated by non-Christians has superior title, or rights of ownership, over that land. In essence, Johnson codifies into US law the principle of Euro-Christian domination over Indigenous Peoples. In the most devastating sense, the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (DoCD) legitimized exploitation, extraction, and enslavement globally and enshrined these practices as the basis of U.S. property law still cited today as recently as 2005 (in Sherrill v. Oneida) and 2020 (McGirt v. Oklahoma).
In the 200th year of Johnson, there is an urgent need for global recognition of the decision's implications as reifying the DoCD and its exploitation of Indigenous Peoples and their connection to land, regarded as a living being (Mother Earth in English.) This conference builds on the history of collaboration at Syracuse University with Indigenous communities across Central New York by expanding dissemination of the pernicious ideologies of DOCD and Johnson, leading to further repudiation of these ideologies and towards healing and repair.
The project's key collaborators include Syracuse University, American Indian Law Alliance (AILA), Indigenous Values Initiative (IVI), The Skä-noñh -- Great Law of Peace Center, and others. For more see the Doctrine of Discovery Project site (doctrineofdiscovery.org).
Call for Papers
We are interested in paper and session proposals from scholars, students, activists, artists, lawyers, policymakers, religious leaders, Indigenous leaders, and more. Our conference seeks to bring together a broad coalition of people working on examining not only the Doctrine of Christian Discovery but also the religious origins of white supremacy.
We are interested in creating thematic panels on the following topics:
- Religious Racism
- White Christian Nationalism
- What are the mythic origins of white supremacy within the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (DoCD)?
- International implications of Johnson v. M'Intosh
- International implications of the DoCD and white supremacy
- The continuing impact of Johnson, DoCD, and white supremacy on Indigenous peoples
- Continuing Environmental impact of Johnson, DoCD, and white supremacy
- The rise of Christian Nationalism around the world
- Religious dimensions of racism
- Religious repudiations and resistance the DoCD
- Legal resistance to Johnson and the DoCD?
- How do we address and resist Johnson and settler colonialism today?
Paper Submission Instructions
- Please send in a 300-word abstract of your paper and/or panel
- Proposals should be received by August 15
- Acceptance notices will be sent on September 1
- Papers from graduate students are encouraged.
- Undergraduate panels with a professor are also encouraged.
- For questions please email Prof. Philip P. Arnold at [email protected]
- All submissions msut be via the form on
Call for Artists Eligibility:
There are no hard restrictions on genre, subject matter, or media; however, we ask artists to keep the conference theme and description in mind when creating and/or selecting work for submission. The artwork must also be suitable or print-friendly for posters, promotional graphics, conference programs, etc.
There are no age restrictions. Artists of all ages may submit their work. For artists under the age of eighteen (18), parent or legal guardian permission is required.
Compensation and Transfer of Ownership:
Each artist whose piece is selected for exhibition will receive a one-time payment of $1,500.00 USD. As part of this payment, artists will be required to sign an agreement transferring ownership of their piece (including any copyrights) to the Indigenous Values Initiative (IVI).
Artist will also receive one (1) conference pass to attend any and all conference sessions.
During the conference our distinguished jurists, other invited jurists, as well conference participants, will vote and select the best in show piece. There will be three awards given of first, second and third prize.
- First Prize -- $5,000 USD
- Second Prize -- $3,000 USD
- Third Prize -- $2,000 USD
- Artists may submit one piece of artwork for consideration.
- Each submission must include a description of the artwork, detailing inspiration, medium, process of creation, physical dimensions.
- Submitted artwork must be of high-resolution quality (300 DPI, .jpeg or .png recommended). If applicable, please include a layered version (.ai, psd, .indd) of the artwork
- Digital Submission of Works by November 1
- Artist Selection and Notification by November 15
- If selected physical objects must be received by November 30 All selected artworks will be exhibited during the conference at Syracuse University from Dec 8-10.
If you have questions, please email Prof. Philip P. Arnold at [email protected].
November 30, 2023, 9:00am EST
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#Religion, #Indigenous studies