Inuvialuit Critical Autobiography and the Carceral Writing of Anthony Thrasher


Prevented by geographical distance and carceral containment from enacting a traditional role as provider for his community, Inuvialuit author Anthony Apakark Thrasher invokes tales of “the legendary… Eskimo past” (323) in his prison writings as a way of making meaning out of imposed immobility. Cultural precedence for such translation of restricted movement into communal purpose can be found in Inuk elder Ivaluardjuk’s “Cold and Mosquitoes,” which depicts the speaker’s metamorphosis through age from hunter of game to hunter of words who contributes to the cultural rather than material survival of his people. While celebrating Thrasher’s creative resistance to state-imposed restrictions, this article worries about the possible danger of overemphasizing prison writing’s emancipatory potential. We consider how Thrasher’s imaginative identification with a mythic Inuvialuk hunter who bears witness to the colonial containment of his people offers a means of accounting for authorial agency without allowing that agency to become unmoored from unjust power relations that restrict both prison inmates and the Inuvialuit community.

This article “Inuvialuit Critical Autobiography and the Carceral Writing of Anthony Thrasher” originally appeared in Prison Writing. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 208 (Spring 2011): 65-83.

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