Performing Indigeneity: Global Histories and Contemporary Experiences

Performing Indigeneity: Global Histories and Contemporary Experiences

Performing Indigeneity: Global Histories and Contemporary Experiences

Performing Indigeneity: Global Histories and Contemporary Experiences

Synopsis

This engaging collection of essays discusses the complexities of "being" indigenous in public spaces. Laura R. Graham and H. Glenn Penny bring together a set of highly recognized junior and senior scholars, including indigenous scholars, from a variety of fields to provoke critical thinking about the many ways in which individuals and social groups construct and display unique identities around the world. The case studies in Performing Indigeneity underscore the social, historical, and immediate contextual factors at play when indigenous people make decisions about when, how, why, and who can "be" indigenous in public spaces.
Performing Indigeneity invites readers to consider how groups and individuals think about performance and display and focuses attention on the ways that public spheres, both indigenous and nonindigenous ones, have received these performances. The essays demonstrate that performance and display are essential to the creation and persistence of indigeneity, while also presenting the conundrum that in many cases "indigeneity" excludes some of the voices or identities that the category purports to represent.

Excerpt

Self- conscious, reflexive public performances of Indigeneity became increasingly common during the second half of the twentieth century, and they are critically important in global politics today. When Indigeneity emerged as a legal and juridical category during the Cold War era, Indigenous cultural performance and display became essential to its articulation, even its substantiation. Indigeneity is no one’s primary identity; yet as the essays in this volume make clear, individuals and groups across the globe fashion themselves as Indigenous through performance and performative acts in intercultural spaces. Analyzing a striking variety of performers and audiences within specific historical contexts, the contributors to this collection locate individual subjects and publics interacting to shape emergent Indigenous identities in both intimate places and public spaces across wide geographic and chronological ranges. Taken together, these acts reveal rich dialogic and cumulative processes: each act has the potential to reinforce or challenge the category of Indigeneity; each can be a starting point for new conceptualizations.

Initially, some scholars (e.g., Kuper 2003) greeted with concern the trend toward codifying Indigeneity as a legal category, warning that outward acts of performance might fall back on older notions of primitivism, helping to reassert “essentialist ideologies of culture and identity,” which could have “dangerous political consequences.” Political and legal definitions of “Indigenous,” many observed, were based too frequently on “assumptions of ties of blood and soil,” rooted in Euro-American notions of culture and identity that were essentialist, even nationalist (Kuper 2003:395).

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