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Inhabiting Indianness : US colonialism and indigenous geographies


This comparative study demonstrates a uniquely spatial phenomenon targeting American Indian peoples and communities that I call "inhabiting Indianness." Inhabiting Indianness refers to the ways that everyday citizens deploy notions of Indianness in the creation of White residential spaces and in reasserting national and therefore colonial geographies. Chapter three serves as the core of the study, examining the construction of a racialized American geography through mundane American Indian-inspired spatial markers. I document and analyze the use of Indian-themed street names throughout the United States, and compare their uses and meanings to street names referencing other racialized groups, including African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos. After reviewing nationwide data, I provide a more detailed case study of Clairemont, California, a suburb of San Diego. Chapter two serves as an intellectual and pedagogical bridge for my study of the street names. This chapter documents how Indianness functions not only through visual and spectacular representations, but also through more mundane cultural practices. I analyze the use of Indianness at two northern California high schools, one that uses a non-caricatured mascot derived from a historical figure and a second where the school name itself recognizes a local native person. In my final chapter, I present a reading of four American Indian artists. Framed in reference to the use of Indianness for marking US-claimed land, I examine how these artists articulate resistance to the production of colonial space, and reveal how their works reflect a shared effort to reassert and recognize indigenous geographies. I present the film and writing of Sherman Alexie, the poetry of Louise Erdrich, a visual art piece from Bunky Echo-Hawk, and a series of installation art works by Edgar Heap of Birds. These works of art illustrate that the artists not only speak back to appropriated notions of Indianness, but also creatively interrogate how American space must be seen as the ongoing work of colonization

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