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

Wednesday, April 18

1:25PM - 3:25PM

400 Caldwell Hall

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

Presentation by Rebecca Macklin

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 analyze 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 artifact and, in doing so, disrupts the conventions of world literature even as he ostensibly participates within them. 

The Reflections of Historical Actors

Presentation by Iris Plessius

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.