To Choose Responsibility

(Queer) Indigenous Existentialism in A History of My Brief Body


  • Emerson Parker Pehl University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



Billy-Ray Belcourt’s (Driftpile Cree) collection of intensely emotional essays in A History of My Brief Body is dedicated “to those for whom utopia is a rallying call.” While he demonstrates that his collection is filled with philosophies, theories, and narratives of freedom, joy, and love, he acknowledges that many other pages of the collection also embrace those “hard feelings” of sadness and sorrow. In this essay, I will analyze the possibilities that his ambivalent affective experiences throughout A History of My Brief Body offers for radical world re-/(kinship) making when read through Brendan Hokowhitu’s (Māori) Indigenous existentialism. I argue that Belcourt’s sadness and sorrow, not to be overdetermined as debilitating to his narratives of joy, love, and freedom, are integral aspects of his affective spectrum as he locates the immediacy of the present Indigenous condition through his own queer, Indigenous body. The intelligibility of Belcourt’s Indigenous immediacy through his ambivalent affective offers a linguistic shift away from a Hegelian dialectic of “resistance” to the settler-colonial state to one of loving “responsibility” to queer, Indigenous kin, conceivably to put us back into relation through Kim TallBear’s (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) notion of caretaking, which then makes Belcourt’s utopic “haven of a world” tenable to a broader audience.




How to Cite

Pehl, E. P. (2024). To Choose Responsibility: (Queer) Indigenous Existentialism in A History of My Brief Body. Transmotion, 9(1&2), 245–254.