Center for Race and Gender Thursday Forum, 12/1/11
Cultural Interventions in Colonial Projects
Consumption, Publics, and Democracy on Rosebud Reservation
Prof. Tom Biolsi, Ethnic Studies
By the 1930s Lakota people on Rosebud Reservation were avid consumers of mail-order catalogs (especially Sears and Wards) and of local and national radio broadcasts. These new media enabled a sustained interest among Indian people in dressing fashionably (especially women) and enjoying music (mostly Country at first, with Rock and Roll becoming popular in the 1950s). This paper describes (with slides) some of this consumption of popular American culture among Lakota people. It also seeks to understand this consumption as a form of participation in what we would now call a “race-blind” public: Consumption made Indian people more modern than the Bureau of Indian Affairs and missionary personnel who sought to “modernize” them, and at the same time offered a form of (cultural) citizenship significantly more substantive than voting or party affiliation.
Blood, Bodies, Land: Indigenous Feminism and the Art of Rebecca Belmore and Erica Lord
Prof. Shari Huhndorf, Ethnic Studies
While the marginalization, dispossession, and silencing of indigenous women have been central to the colonial project, popular representations of indigenous women paradoxically implicate them in the conquest of their communities and the theft of indigenous land. Exposing the material and symbolic dimensions of colonial violence against Native women and refiguring their political and social roles have long been key endeavors of Native women’s culture. This paper analyzes the intersections of gender, colonization, and cultural representations in two recent works by indigenous women artists Rebecca Belmore and Erica Lord. Reworking the conventions of nude painting and photography, Belmore’s 2008 photograph Fringe depicts a reclining nude figure across whose back cuts a large raised scar decorated with fringes of red beads that appear as blood. As the image invokes the aestheticization and sexualization of indigenous women’s bodies, it implicates these representational practices in material violence, thus insisting on the significance of gender to ongoing colonization and gesturing towards the silences that surround indigenous women. As Belmore’s image thus reveals the gendered histories and legacies of colonization, Lord’s 2000 multi-media installation Native American Land Reclamation Project exposes the ongoing theft of Native lands as it also refigures the role of indigenous women in U.S. nationalism and indigenous resistance to dispossession. This paper analyzes these works in the intersecting contexts of colonial histories and indigenous women’s activism as it raises questions about the projects of indigenous feminism.