Examining the period of Native writing after the passage of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (1990) alongside the ‘nonhuman turn’ in current critical theory, I examine the centrality of nonhuman beings and indigenous object ontologies in fiction and poetry by Native writers. My research locates indigenous philosophies of materiality deployed in contemporary literary works published since 1990 by Native writers including Louise Erdrich, Susan Power, Frances Washburn, Orlando White, Tommy Orange, Tommy Pico, and Heid Erdrich. I argue that the period since passage of the legislation is defined by calls for repatriation and redress in answer to a long history of dispossession and demands a reading of the culturally specific responses and indigenous orientations toward the material realities presented in these texts. The indigenous ontologies envisioned in these works, while tribally specific, voice a broader orientation that disrupts the binaries between the human and nonhuman, the object and subject, and the discursive and material. While Native American and Indigenous Studies regularly articulates the centrality of broad cross-being kinship networks, I want to highlight a tribally-specific articulation of the expansive kinship networks and responsibilities that speak to notions of being. This interdisciplinary comes out of the sustained vibrancy in Native literary criticism and Native American and Indigenous Studies and, even as it builds on the most recent avenues of critical inquiry, it owes much to the calls for tribal specificity and a recognition of the centrality of self-determination and sovereignty in the past twenty years of NAIS scholarship.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2019. Major: English. Advisor: Josephine Lee. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 193 pages.
We Are All Related: Contemporary Native American Literature and the Nonhuman Turn.
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