Academic Field

English - Literature

Faculty Mentor Name

Dr. Caroline Woidat

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Images of Indians in popular culture often perpetuate stereotypes and overlook the diversity of Native American tribes and identities. In the works of contemporary Native American author/filmmaker Sherman Alexie, I argue, we see how “Indianness” requires a performative element deriving from stereotypes that seem authentic and legitimate to others by conforming to dominant myths of Indian identity. The conflicts surrounding representation of Native Americans include the difficulty of exploring queer Native American identities. My paper utilizes Lisa Tatonetti's framework in her essay "Visible Sexualities or Invisible Nations," in which Indian identities are unable to accommodate queerness due to pervasive "legacies of settler colonialism in their depictions of LGBTQ Native people." These representations subsequently lack the intersectionality available for other racial identities. For example, Alexie's The Business of Fancydancing presents the tension between the reservation and the gay urban space in which the main character is unable to synthesize both identities. Alexie's characters frequently utilize and juxtapose cultural stereotypes to examine how they differ from expected components of Native American identity. Examining this film and other works by Alexie, I argue that the performative demand to appear "Indian" enough in these texts disrupts the synthesis of queer and Native American identities.

Keywords

Native American Literature, Native American film, two-spirit, Sherman Alexie, Queer film, lgbtq identity, Native American identity

Start Date

10-4-2015 9:30 AM

End Date

10-4-2015 11:00 AM

Location

Liberal Arts Bldg 108

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Apr 10th, 9:30 AM Apr 10th, 11:00 AM

Native not Queer: Performance and Identity Conflict for Sherman Alexie's Native Americans

Liberal Arts Bldg 108

Images of Indians in popular culture often perpetuate stereotypes and overlook the diversity of Native American tribes and identities. In the works of contemporary Native American author/filmmaker Sherman Alexie, I argue, we see how “Indianness” requires a performative element deriving from stereotypes that seem authentic and legitimate to others by conforming to dominant myths of Indian identity. The conflicts surrounding representation of Native Americans include the difficulty of exploring queer Native American identities. My paper utilizes Lisa Tatonetti's framework in her essay "Visible Sexualities or Invisible Nations," in which Indian identities are unable to accommodate queerness due to pervasive "legacies of settler colonialism in their depictions of LGBTQ Native people." These representations subsequently lack the intersectionality available for other racial identities. For example, Alexie's The Business of Fancydancing presents the tension between the reservation and the gay urban space in which the main character is unable to synthesize both identities. Alexie's characters frequently utilize and juxtapose cultural stereotypes to examine how they differ from expected components of Native American identity. Examining this film and other works by Alexie, I argue that the performative demand to appear "Indian" enough in these texts disrupts the synthesis of queer and Native American identities.