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Encased encounters : remapping boundaries of U.S. and Mexican indigeneity


In our current historical moment, notions of citizenship and sovereignty are continually being called into question. Over the past two hundred years, processes of delimiting the cultural and geographic parameters of the U.S. and Mexican nation-states have played out in distinct but parallel ways. As the two countries that share the largest militarized border in the world, flows of migration, or rather the containment of these flows, has necessitated a clear demarcation of what constitutes indigenous people, and more importantly, indigenous landscapes. Citizenship in both countries has always been predicated upon how the nation-state imagines its borders, and whom it imagines as worthy of residing within those borders. This work maps the systemic and overt forms of racism that create current discourses and perceptions of indigeneity, analyzing how these forms continue to define and delimit nation-building projects today. Through centering an analysis of the National Museum of the American Indian in the United States and the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico, I link their institutional practices and representations of indigenous communities to larger historical developments and genealogies to reveal the way that structural racism and ideologies operate to manage and produce the ongoing "absent presence" of indigeneity. This project aims to move away from the notion of museums as sites of multicultural inclusion and public recognition to examine the ongoing problem and reconfiguring of "difference" in such spaces. Looking at the way that each museum facilitates navigation through spatial, as well as temporal boundaries, I then locate these navigations within larger historical and contemporary debates surrounding conflicting notions of state and Native sovereignty. I contend that museums are key sites for capturing, staging and authenticating indigenous identities, serving as important locations to examine the indigenous presence in larger national and discursive contexts. This dissertation asks the following questions : how do museums provide the groundwork for the imagined and symbolic landscapes through which we see, engage and encounter the indigenous presence in the early 21st century? How does an understanding of indigeneity in these two museums reveal much more about the present conditions of globalization, neoliberalism, diaspora, history and political sovereignty? How does apprehending the racialization of space and place allow for nuanced analyses of power and native subjectivities in the present -day?

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