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Symposium: Remapping Textualities of Power in Cultural Contact Zones: Methodological Practices in Indigenous Studies

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 1:25pm to 3:25pm

Caldwell Hall, 400

Presenters and Titles:

Rebecca Macklin

'Performing Global Indigeneity: Touristic and Literary Spaces of Resistance in Thomas King's Truth and Bright Water'

Much like the cultural tourism industry, ‘world literature’ has traditionally been framed as a means of providing “a window on different parts of the world” (Damrosch, 2003). Within the context of global capitalism, it is arguable that both arenas can be understood as cultural contact zones: enabling the tourist, or reader, to learn about a culture, history or landscape distant from their own. In this context, the two seemingly distinct industries are connected, through the increase in movement of people and cultural goods across transnational borders of the past few decades. Yet, despite the commoditized and constructed nature of such industries, a narrative of authenticity continues to pervade these spaces: particularly within the context of Indigenous cultures. 

Examining Thomas King’s novel Truth and Bright Water (1999)I draw on the concept of 'staged authenticity' to analyse how King utilises literary performativity to deconstruct globally circulating myths of Indigenous authenticity. In doing so, I suggest that King disrupts the notion of a ‘pure’ Native culture resisting global forces and critiques the idea of Indigenous peoples as the source of an authentic resistance. Rather than drawing on actual touristic practices, here I am interested in how King thematically engages with tourism as a vehicle through which to critique the commodification of Indigenous cultures. In doing so, I interrogate intersecting expropriations of settler-colonialism and capitalist globalization, as well as the spaces of resistance that can be found within these arenas. Through what I suggest are authorial performances, King self-consciously reflects on his own analogous commodification of Indigenous cultures as the means of entry into the world literary system. Yet, by insisting on the inherent untranslatability of local cultures and playfully subverting readers’ expectations of how Indigenous authors should ‘perform’, King resists the understanding of literature as cultural artefact and, in doing so, disrupts the conventions of world literature even as he ostensibly participates within them. 

Rebecca Macklin is a 2017-18 Fulbright Visiting Researcher at Cornell University and PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Leeds. Her thesis focuses on the uses of memory and space in Native American and South African literary engagements with settler-colonialism and global capitalism.  An alumnus from the universities of Leeds and Lancaster, her writing has appeared in publications including Native American and Indigenous Studies and Wasafiri. Prior to her PhD, Rebecca worked as an academic publisher with branches of the United Nations. She is on the Board of the Bishop Simeon Trust and has a pervading interest in the role of participatory arts for community engagement and youth empowerment.

Iris Plessius

The Reflections of Historical Actors

While conducting archival research the goal of the researcher is to reconstruct a particular time in history by using a myriad of different sources. Some of these sources are pretty straight-forward such as governmental records, contracts, and land deeds while others are more difficult to decipher such as letters, diaries, and travel reports. These personal documents, better known as ego documents, tend to be inherently subjective and are often written with a particular agenda in mind, which seems to make them less reliable. However, the value of these ego documents for historic research should not be underestimated. By building in a set of checks and balances; for instance, by looking at ego documents in dialogue with oral history, these sources actually allow researchers to get as close to historical actors as possible. In fact, one could even say that ego documents function as a type of mirror that offer their onlookers a view of the reflection of the historical actors. In this lecture, I will touch upon the opportunities and pitfalls of using ego documents in historical research. But above all I would like to demonstrate what can be gained by including these types of sources within your research by looking at the various documents that recorded the transactions between the Dutch Commissioners of Indians Affairs and the Haudenosaunee. 

Iris Plessius (1984) is a PhD candidate at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. She has completed a double master in American Studies and History (which she both received with the highest honors) conjointly with an employment as researcher at the University of Tilburg and an internship at the Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. It was while working at this museum that she became increasingly interested in the Native Americans and the Dutch- Native American relationship. In addition to her PhD, Iris continues to be active within the museum industry working as a host at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. She recently also became a PhD representative to the Board of the Netherlands American Studies Association (NASA). Currently, Iris is working as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at Cornell University.


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American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program


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Rebecca Macklin; Iris Plessius

Speaker Affiliation

University of Leeds; Radboud University

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Karl Hill

Karl Hill posted a photo 4/10/2018

Symposium:  Remapping Textualities of Power in Cultural Contact Zones Symposium: Remapping Textualities of Power in Cultural Contact Zones