Unsettling Sonic Space through Indigenous Testimony

Thursday, Apr 03, 2014 - Thursday, Apr 03, 2014 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

691 Barrows Hall

Sonic Sovereignty in D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded
Prof. Beth Piatote, Native American Studies

This presentation examines the employment of sound, particularly Salish singing and drumming, in articulating alternative boundaries of Flathead/Salish communities that extend beyond the reservation and the visual surveillance scope of the law. Drawing upon the context of the reservation as a legally “surrounded” site, and building on her previous work that understands D’Arcy McNickle’s novel as, in part, a critique of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, Piatote shows how the novel incorporates alternative forms of cultural expression, such as Indian music and drumming, to foreground the political aims of Indigenous cultural expression that reveal a politics of resistance to state power.

Narrativizing Trauma and the Trauma of Narration: A Commentary on Some Indigenous Writings of Northeast India
Cherrie Chhangte, Mizoram University, India

Northeast India is the eastern-most region of India connected to East India via a narrow corridor squeezed between Nepal and Bangladesh. It comprises the contiguous Seven Sister States—Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura—and the Himalayan state of Sikkim. Isolated not just geographically, but culturally and otherwise from the rest of India, this region has seen numerous struggles from its indigenous people which have been variously referred to as uprisings, insurgencies, revolutions, rebellions and so on in a bid for self preservation and autonomy, among other things.
For many of these states, trauma is a lived experience that often is not addressed or given validity. Under such circumstances, writing from the Northeast, especially creative writing in English, has become increasingly significant. This talk attempts to look at some of these narratives. Although the umbrella term “northeast writing” by no means suffices to capture the essence of the unique experiences that find articulation through the pens of writers from all the states of the northeast, their literatures do share some common qualities. The literature of Northeast India, although as diverse as the history of its people, has a recurrent feature of what Tilottoma Misra calls “an intense sense of awareness of cultural loss and recovery” especially in its contemporary works. When the landscape is beset with violence, the question of representation becomes a crucial and fundamental problem. The perceptions and experiences of the writer from the northeast often deals with themes such as attempts to find coherence in identity, a questioning of the very identity which is often multiple and overlapping, as well as issues of modernization and westernization amidst cultures that are deeply rooted in tradition and folk ways. Poets and novelists have addressed the love, the anger, the violence, and the ways in which people negotiate between such polarities through their writings. The art of writing quite literally often becomes the only way of hearing silenced voices; however, the problem of the writer whose voice speaks on behalf of so many others, the immense responsibility either foisted on him or taken up voluntarily by him, and whether one can vouch authenticity, is worth looking into. Silence hurts, but paradoxically, speaking out sometimes hurts too.

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