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Silence, Sound and Subtitles: Exploring Quechua, K’iche’ and the History of Indigenous Languages in United States Film and Television


This project seeks to understand the role that Indigenous languages, and specifically those of Latin America, play in mainstream United States film and television. Drawing on tools and ideas from American Indian studies, linguistic anthropology and film studies, this project constructs a chronology of Indigenous-language film dialogue from 1894 to 2021. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019) and Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019) serve as case studies, highlighting Quechua- and K’iche’-speaking characters respectively. A comparison of these two programs initiates a larger conversation around grassroots language advocacy, federal policy initiatives and hemispheric approaches to the study of Indigeneity in the Americas. Ultimately, City of Gold and OITNB reveal the extent to which language issues have permeated the public consciousness. Their presence in Hollywood reaffirms the need for interdisciplinary and hemispheric analyses on Indigenous migrant languages, realities and cinema.

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