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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 23, 2020

“The People Shall Continue”: Native American Museums as Archives of Futurity

  • Birgit Däwes EMAIL logo
From the journal Anglia

Abstract

In the Western cultural archive from James Fenimore Cooper’s ‘noble savages’ to Gore Verbinsky’s 2013 reincarnation of The Lone Ranger, Indigenous American cultures have, for the longest time, been relegated to the past and framed in representations that either displace them into nostalgic folklore or declare them conveniently vanished. While non-Native cultural products such as literary texts, photographs, and paintings, as well as museum exhibitions have coded Indigenous identities as static opposites to modernity, and thus deprived them of a future in Western culture, contemporary Indigenous writers, artists, and curators use these same cultural channels to contest the semiotics of absence, to assert cultural sovereignty, and to empower alternative modes of knowledge. This article considers tribal museums as interventional archives of knowing – in Derrida’s sense of both “assigning residence or of entrusting so as to put into reserve” and of “consigning through gathering together signs” (1995/1996: 3; original emphasis). With examples from a Pueblo cultural context, including an exhibition at Disneyworld, Florida; the Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum in Acoma, New Mexico; as well as the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I trace the ways in which Native American museums strategically undermine what Mark Rifkin has termed “settler time” (2017: 9) and claim instead presence, sovereignty, inclusion, modernity, and futurity. In their specific outlines, these exhibits serve simultaneously as archives of Pueblo cultural heritage and as construction sites of temporality itself.1

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Published Online: 2020-09-23
Published in Print: 2020-09-15

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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