Reading borders in the work of Louise Erdrich

Scullion, Anna-Grace (2019) Reading borders in the work of Louise Erdrich. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis examines Ojibwe writer Louise Erdrich’s engagement with borders in her novels. I argue that Erdrich employs borders as manifestations and emblems of settler colonial hegemony in the United States, through and against which traditional Ojibwe senses of place and identity are explored and adapted. I contend that Erdrich’s engagement with Ojibwe epistemological and cultural traditions in relation to reservation, state, national and metaphysical borders and other social boundaries revises Euro-American historical narratives of land and social settlement, thereby challenging the legitimacy and power of colonial hegemony.

Ojibwe and mixedblood identity and the Native reservation environment are two key themes throughout Erdrich’s body of work. While these themes have been discussed at length by scholars, no full-length study has yet been devoted to Erdrich’s presentation of borders as symbolic and thematic devices structuring and mediating Indigenous identity, experience, sense of place and historical narratives. By examining borders as points of intersection between Native identity and colonial hegemony, this thesis fills a gap in Erdrich scholarship. The epistemological complexity of Erdrich’s engagement with borders necessitates an interdisciplinary framework incorporating Native studies, border studies and settler colonial theory; therefore this thesis performs theoretical as well as critical interventions.

This thesis examines representations of borders from the concrete, as constructed through surveys and maps, to the abstract, as arbitrary limits devised and imposed by western epistemology. Throughout, I argue that Erdrich’s engagement with borders demonstrates continual social, cultural and epistemological decolonial resistance and constitutes a radical invocation of Indigenous sovereignty.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2022 11:09
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 11:09
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/84790
DOI:

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