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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transindigenous Modernism: Literature of the Americas, 1929-1945

  • Author(s): Gonzales, Paulina Margarita
  • Advisor(s): Chacón, Gloria
  • Davidson, Michael
  • et al.

Transindigenous Modernism indigenizes the study of literary modernism. It applies the term indigenismo, generally defined as a discourse of assimilating Indigenous peoples in the Americas, to begin with the premise that settler nation-state consolidation and modernization were dependent on assimilating Indigenous peoples culturally and politically. Transindigenous Modernism questions the extent to which Indigenous peoples normalized indigenismo. Using a North-South methodology that brings together English-language and Spanish-language primary sources, theory, and literary criticism, Transindigenous Modernism interprets artistic and literary productions such as literary criticism, oral traditions, novels, and histories published by American Indian and Indigenous Mexican artists between 1929 and 1945. Through this approach, this dissertation seeks to recover and interpret Indigenous-to-Indigenous connections made through literature, connections which are often obscured or under-examined due to the dominance of nation-state paradigms to pursue literary studies. Transindigenous Modernism argues that these transindigenous connections attest to Indigenous peoples’ creative adaptations and contestations to settler nation-state consolidation (indigenismo) and their insistence on modern Indigenous, and tribal-specific, identities and futurities. Traveling intellectuals and writers such as Todd Downing (Choctaw), Andrés Henestrosa (Zapotec), and John Joseph Mathews (Osage), helped shape a North-South circuit of knowledge and cultural production that scholars are beginning to explore and appreciate. In order to capture the historical moment, chapter one examines the discourses of indigenismo and mestizaje in the Mexican, modern artist José Clemente Orozco’s writing and mural, The Epic of American Civilization, at Dartmouth College. Chapter two re-examines the themes explicated in chapter one through the lens of an American Indian narrator traveling south in Todd Downing’s The Mexican Earth. Chapters three and four examine Indigenous-to-Indigenous connections across time and space in the tribal-centric writings of Andrés Henestrosa and John Joseph Mathews. The epilogue explores further questions about mestizo/a-Indigenous connections.

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