Tracing Ideological Creases Through Indigenous Sovereignties: The Dynamic Reciprocity of Silko and Vizenor’s Storywork

Barrett-Mills, Jake (2021) Tracing Ideological Creases Through Indigenous Sovereignties: The Dynamic Reciprocity of Silko and Vizenor’s Storywork. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The question of Indigenous sovereignty in politics and literature is better posed as several questions of Indigenous sovereignties in political literatures. In this thesis, I propose that Anishinaabe writer Gerald Vizenor and Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko’s storytelling conveys dimensions of sovereignties that indicate when, how, and where Indigenous sovereignties (plural) are enacted in relation to, and independent of, settler sovereignty (singular), which is defined by a relationship of possession. Silko’s novel Almanac of the Dead (1991) and novella Ocean Story (2011), alongside Vizenor’s novel Treaty Shirts (2016), memoir Interior Landscapes (1990), and the Constitution of the White Earth Nation, deploy Indigenous sovereignties in relationships that elude settler colonial hierarchies of sovereign subordinacy.

Reading these diverse genres of texts in sovereign contexts, I engage a critical framework of generative incommensurability that catalyses the sovereignties they gesture toward as unequivocal and as unreconcilable with settler colonial sovereignty. Focussing on sovereign aspects of constitution in chapter one, temporality in chapter two, and place and memory in a tripartite chapter three, I offer an extended critical study toward how Indigenous stories realise sovereignties that exceed settler colonial political epistemology but are also not separable from a settler context.

Ultimately, I suggest that an ethic of dynamic reciprocity in work with and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews enables a reorientation of political hierarchy at a theoretical level that yields material possibilities. Emphasising Indigenous sovereignties as actions expressed, not states possessed—that is, as always active and underway—I discuss the material and conceptual spaces where Indigenous and non-Indigenous sovereignties interact to reveal likenesses and incommensurabilities, encounters that desanctify the singular hegemonic worldview sustained by the settler colonial imaginary. The relationships between and amongst Indigenous sovereignties and settler sovereignty are reimagined by Vizenor and Silko’s storywork to be messy, non-binary exchanges. The stories that carry these sovereign charges emerge as political sites of engagement where scholars take on roles of political agents and assume all of the responsibilities that follow.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 13:11
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 13:11


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