Coming Home: Sovereign Bodies and Sovereign Land in Indigenous Poetry, 1990-2012

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Thau-eleff, Maya
Two-Spirit Writers , Settler Colonial Studies , North American Indigenous Studies , Indigenous Poetry , Literary Criticism
This thesis probes the ways in which land-based and bodily violence inform contemporary North American Indigenous poetry. Since the “Oka Crisis” of 1990, English-speaking North American Indigenous writers have produced a substantial body of poetry that has significant implications in forwarding national sovereignty struggles. Gender violence enabled settler colonial land appropriation; resource exploitation also harmed Indigenous bodies. This project considers the ways in which Indigenous authors with diverse geographic, cultural and embodied experiences employ common strategies toward using poetry as an emancipatory tool. A poem is both whole, and a fragment of a larger body of work; engaging with the works of individual poets, and multi-authored anthologies allows for varied readings of the same poems and their engagements with the project’s key themes of homeland and embodiment. This paper is informed by the reading of many Indigenous theorists and poets, and aligns with an Indigenous-feminist critique that suggests that nationalist sovereignty struggles are meaningless as long as bodily violence against Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people is still prevalent. As such, contemporary struggles for reclaiming Indigenous lands must also be struggles toward a sovereign erotic, sovereignty over one’s sexuality and gender identity.
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