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Preservation and the Production of Bare Life : : Cultural Expressions of US Genocide from 1864-1948


Entitled "Preservation and the Production of Bare Life," my dissertation considers the role of late 19th and 20th century American literature as it negotiated and challenged contemporary discourses of preservation, which, I argue, were emerging in complicity with the silencing and cultural dismissal of multiethnic populations within the rapidly expanding United States and its imperial peripheries. From George Catlin's vision of "a nation's park, containing man and beast," to William Faulkner's depiction of Haiti as an historical island "set aside by Heaven itself," preservation was employed not only for the disinterested acquisition of knowledge, but also as an ideological tool used to encapsulate and redefine certain subjects as static and unchanging, barred from civil lives and political representation. My research goes on to explore the writings of Yankton Sioux essayist, Zitkala-Sa, and African American labor organizer, Angelo Herndon, who envisioned and articulated new anti-colonial definitions of preservation, using their memoirs as a means to contest their presumed containment within these enclosed histories. In our own current moment, when conversations regarding preservation (ecological, historical and cultural) continue to dominate the popular imaginary, my work traces the contested genealogy of this term as it was inspired, influenced, and subsequently transformed by the diverse and multivalent literatures of the late 19th and 20th century United States

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