Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Indigenous Feminist Relational Sovereignty

I recently finished a paper by Carol Lynne D'Arcangelis "Indigenous Feminist Relational Sovereignty: Feminist Conversation, Non-colonizing Solidarities, Inclusive Nations" which is really quite a mouthful.  In this essay D'Arcangelis aims to "consider the theoretical and practical possibilities for fostering non-colonizing solidarities between indigenous women and allies."  The argument she puts forward in the paper themselves are written in acedmeese but basically she seems to want to use the ideas of two feminist scholars to build linkages between the dominant "feminist" discourse (primarially white) and indigenous women who may not identify with feminism because of the historical lack of representation.

This argument did little for me, but I found that she brought together a number of new to me ideas and references that were interesting.  The first was the idea of "retraditionalization" and the related construct of a tradition/modernity binary and the related implicit value statements of tradition as old fashion, savage and lacking rigor, and modernity as current, civilized and science based.  This "Enlightenment-inspired... tradition/modernity dualism" and related assumptions can hinder our ability to progress with a modern indigenous reality that bridges these two worlds (or progresses beyond them?). 

BetweenMirrors.com | Alt Art Gallery: The Dark Fashion Photography of Stefan Gesell:
BetweenMirrors.com | Alt Art Gallery:
The Dark Fashion Photography of Stefan Gesell
While a return to tradition can be a means of subverting colonization, it is an incomplete exercise if it is not accompanied by a decolonization of the values attached to these terms.  Furthermore there is a risk of "returning" to something that is neither currently tenable or true to the spirit of the tradition, which in older times was something fluid and changing. The return in itself can become another layer of colonization, where one can play Indian as long as it occurs under very precise terms of "authenticity" as defined by white society.  D'Arcangelis supports her comments on this issue with reference to Kim Anderson and a paper by Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indigenas. 

She argues that if we let white society determine "traditional authenticity" then there is the possibility of "reinforcing a belief in their (our) eventual disappearance."  Food and festival is fun for everyone, but "real life" calls modern skills and the process of translation can be labeled as "false" if it is not understood within the wider process of colonization and reinterpretation into a modern context.  What we had is gone.  What we have is missing something.  Here I think the pieces I wrote on voice earlier provide a good example.  There are traditional indigenous protocols for sharing information.  These were protocols for face to face communication, but this does not mean that these protocols are useless for modern communication, rather is it the process of careful translation that allows us to retain what is important in indigenous ways of transmitting knowledge while using new forms of communication like email.

D'Arcangelis raises a couple of other ideas which I found quite interesting.  She mentions in passing the need to re-explore ideas of family and home as the current interpretations tend to be based in modernist ideology and not indigenous tradition.  I know that my Christianized background certainly influenced my ideas of these terms, but her comment brings to mind the wider usage of the family and ideas of home to influence political decisions and economic realities during industrialization.  This is something I would like to read and think more about.

She also introduces an interesting idea by B. Lawrence of imagining non-linear conceptions of time as a palimpsest, where the past is there, but written over with the new. D'Arcangelis notes the similarity between this view and the indigenous ideas about time.  I thought this was a great example particularly in the wider context of this piece and modernization.  Plus, we had an obsession with the palimpsest of Archimedes for a while at my house so I feel like it is family.  I even went as that Archimedes palimpsest for Halloween that year.  So while I did not like this paper, it gave me lots to think about, so maybe it was a good paper after all?

Last night we read an interpretation of Loki killing Baldur from "The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice."  While I quite like this book, this version of the Loki story is weird and some of the phrasing strange.  However it did seem to have enough WTFs that the children followed along even as they jumped on the trampoline and beat each other.  So depending on what you are looking for our of your stories you might like this one.  I want to read my favorite about the sun cow tonight.  Stealing the sun cow is bad.

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