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Repatriation as Neurotheology: Posthumanistic Approaches to Decolonization, Hope, and Cognitive Justice


This thesis attempts to rethink the metaethics of repatriation in the context of global cognitive justice, making reference to the specific case of the Omaha power being Umoⁿ'hoⁿ'ti (the sacred pole or "True Omaha" of the Omaha people) being repatriated by the Peabody Museum. In doing so, the thesis offers a posthumanistic and post-vitalist framework for the understanding of human socio-cognitive and semiotic systems with regard to traditional Native American cultural forms. Posthumanism is brought to bear in that the framework allows us to take seriously schemas of humanity, cognition, and/or personhood that are not bound up with Western humanist definitions of the human. Postvitalism makes itself known in that we take seriously forms of agency that various objects may have without reference to a tacit vitalism. This approach allows us to understand the socio-cognitive systems of indigenous communities as being embedded in a general semiosis in which they participate and to which they respond, consistent with the testimony (historical and con-temporary) that many of them offer about their own experience. Going further, the thesis makes use of Michael Yellow Bird's theories of "neurodecolonization" to put forward a nonrepresentational political neurotheology as a means of providing for the (semiotic) survivance of indigenous populations. A neurotheological approach to decolonization is seen as a cultural praxis targeted to cultural sustainability through dialogical cultural therapeutics--a praxis comprehensible to Western epistemologies and those of at least some indigenous cultures simultaneously.

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