MANIFEST SOVEREIGNTY Satire, Parody & Everything In Between, Contemporary Native American Art
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Readers/AdvisorsWesterman, Jonah G.
Term and YearSpring 2023
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractIn analyzing the work of a large variety of Indigenous artists, several consistent modes of working become apparent, the most compelling of which is a particularly unique Native form of satire that utilizes ironic humor and parody to subvert dominant settler paradigms of knowledge production and dismantle centuries of misrepresentations of Indian identity and culture. This sort of work most often invokes the trickster figure of Coyote as both author and teacher; importantly he should not be confused with the worldly archetypical character that he has historically been conflated with. As Coyote speaks through these works, he offers an act of both survivance (a term coined by Gerald Vizenor that signifies an active assertion of living creative Native presence and a refusal of the vanishing Indian) and of claiming visual sovereignty. My research covers a vast array of material, including writings by both Native and non-Native scholars, artists, critics, etc., with topics ranging from Native mythology and trickster discourse, theories of satire and parody in both its historic and modern uses, cultural appropriation, Native humor, Indigeneity and Native sovereignty, decolonization, contemporary museum studies, and more. My research thus far has demonstrated this brand of Native art production is extremely powerful, emotional, easy to engage with (thanks to the ironic humor) and highly effective in achieving its goals—if only when it is situated and seen within mainstream environments as opposed to when it is corralled on the reservation or tribal museums. It has also shown, disappointingly, that there is a plethora of outdated settler scholarship in the public sphere that no longer stands up, and that there also remains a great imbalance in the number of Native critics and scholars working in this field. All of this contributes to continued misinterpretations of Native work, culture, and ideas, as well as slowing the acceptance of Native arts into mainstream museums, which for many Native thinkers and artists is deemed necessary, although fraught with potential issues. Because Native thought differs so greatly from Western thought, and Native satirical artwork (like all satire and parody) depends equally upon the author and reader to decode its meaning, it is crucial that Settler scholarship and institutions increase their engagement in this field to help transform the way non-Natives experience and understand Native art. The annotated bibliography and bibliography of further reading which follows is the first step towards a larger book project to be completed in future doctoral work.