March 8, 2018
Pauline Wakeham is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Western Ontario, situated on the land of the Attawandaron, Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Leni-Lunaape peoples. She is a settler scholar of Indigenous literary and cultural studies. Her recent work has considered discourses of reconciliation, reparations for settler colonial injustices, as well as the incommensurabilities of settler-state reconciliation with Indigenous theories and practices of resurgence.
Pauline is the author of the article “Beyond Comparison: Reading Relations between Indigenous Nations.”
While the tensions and potential affinities between Native literary nationalism and “Trans-Indigenous” comparative studies of Indigenous literatures have been debated at some length, much less has been said about how, in literary critical practice, scholars might formulate reading methods in which “tribal specificity and pan-tribalism might corroborate each other” (Womack 226). How might scholars read for both difference and connection between and across Indigenous nations, and under what conditions is it appropriate and generative to do so? What kinds of methods might enable such readings while still affirming Native literary nationalism’s call for centering Indigenous knowledges and affirming Indigenous nations’ self-determination? This essay takes up these questions first by engaging the work of Chickasaw scholar Chadwick Allen and Māori scholar Alice Te Punga Somerville, two critics who have formulated methods of literary analysis for reading “Indigenous-Indigenous encounter[s]” (Somerville “The Lingering” 23). Learning from the possibilities and potential limits of Allen’s and Somerville’s methods, the paper then moves towards elucidating a mode of analysis that de-centres comparative and transnational approaches inherited from Euro-Western academia and, in turn, re-centres Indigenous terms of self-recognition and relationality. In doing so, the essay seeks to translate Native literary nationalism’s call for prioritizing Indigenous knowledges and lifeways into reading methods that attend carefully to how Indigenous authors articulate nation-to-nation engagements.
February 27, 2018
Brandon Kerfoot is a settler scholar from Edmonton, in Treaty 6 territory. He is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, where he analyzes when and how persons and politicized groups claim kinship with animals in Arctic literature and politics.
Brandon is the author of the article “Beyond Symbolism: Polar Bear Characters and Inuit Kinship in Markoosie’s Harpoon of the Hunter.”
Markoosie’s Harpoon of the Hunter is the coming-of-age story turned survival narrative of Kamik, a young Inuk whose community is attacked by a rabid polar bear. This paper engages with the existing scholarship on the text to show that it has favoured a symbolic interpretation of polar bears and other characters. Though the polar bear surfaces as a potentially symbolic element, I argue that the sequence of multiple bear attacks becomes increasingly literal, stripping away the symbolic resonance and revealing a polar bear character. By layering over the polar bear symbol with a relationship between Kamik and polar bears, Harpoon of the Hunter invites readers to shift from symbolic to literal relationship models. I apply this model to a reading of the final scene, Kamik’s suicide, to argue that the text undermines excessive symbolism and demands that material relationships be acknowledged and maintained.