Of this Land, On this Land: Indigenous Artists Challenging the Racial Logics of Liberal Modernity
Morrissette, Suzanne Noelle
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This dissertation discusses the role of Indigenous artists in illustrating and denaturalizing the systems of colonial thought that continue to constrain Indigenous peoples expressions of political agency. I argue that the works of select contemporary Indigenous artists challenge contemporary liberal settler societys racial ideas of citizenship, belonging, and relationship to place through methods that involve diverse audiences in imagining more just and shared futures upon Indigenous lands. My examination of tendencies to frame Indigenous political expression as aggressive, anti-state, or anti-progress looks to literature on liberal thought, which describes concepts of freedom and equality manifested in the development of the social contract that has determined citizenship. I look at the ways that these concepts have been deployed historically to determine the value of Indigenous subjectivity and the supremacy of settler nations and institutions. In this sense, the artworks that I highlight engage critically with liberal thought, and also express Indigenous political thought in their own right. The analysis takes place in three parts: an examination of the history of ideas surrounding perceptions of Indigenous political presence; an investigation into the legacies of liberal thought now threatened by assertions of Indigenous political presence; and a study of the ways in which Indigenous people are misconstrued as violent even as they are the continued subjects of ongoing colonial violence. Using an artist-curator approach to research, I draw upon artworks that together help to articulate the ontological barriers facing Indigenous political thought while offering texts through which audiences can collectively and reflexively examine life together upon Turtle Island.