New Trends in Native American Studies: The Road Back to Sweetgrass and the Palimpsest Approach to Native Fiction
This article reflects on recent developments in the broad category of Native American Studies, as it offers a particular proposal of analysis for contemporary Native literature which is based on the palimpsest metaphor. The text first revises the dialogue of Native Studies with the Turn to Ethics, emphasizing the primary ceremonial—or transformative—motivation of Native writing, and with Trauma Studies, offering a re-mapping of the paradigm by theorizing Native American grief and its political implications when expressed in literature. It then covers several recently articulated developments of Native storytelling: the dialogues between storytelling and theories; the concept of tribalography; and the recent turn to theory in Native studies. Arguing that the future of Native American Studies will necessarily have to reach for some level of balance between difference and relation, it reflects on contemporary Native identity, best illustrated by Gerald Vizenor’s concepts of the postindian and transmotion. The author then connects all these developments to the palimpsest metaphor, arguing that its emphasis on difference and relation, which come from the simultaneous view of the palimpsestic and the palimpestuous ways of understanding the metaphor, offers a useful way to interpret contemporary Native American literatures and identity, for it conveniently addresses the double reference to survival and the threat of disintegration that Native writing is largely based on. The article then analyses Linda LeGarde Grover’s The Road Back to Sweetgrass (2014) from the palimpsestic/palimpestuous perspective, examining the textual efforts to rescue hidden or written-upon meanings, and asserting the way in which those recovered voices are brought to the surface and are simultaneously acknowledged as part of a larger whole, as engaging in dialogic relation to a series of other voices with which they coexist in tension and contradiction. The double motivation of this reading—that of recovering, digging, denouncing, and of vindicating belonging, equality, and our common humanity—is key to the understanding of Native literature as a form of activism.
Allen, Chadwick. “A Transnational Native American Studies? Why Not Studies That Are Trans-Indigenous?” Journal of Transnational American Studies 4.1 (2012).
Andersen, Chris. “Critical Indigenous Studies: From Difference to Density.” Cultural Studies Review 15.2 (2009): 80-100.
Borzaga, Michela. “Trauma in the Postcolony: Towards a New Theoretical Approach.” Trauma, Memory and Narrative in the Contemporary South African Novel. Ed. Ewald Mengel and Michela Borzaga. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012. 65-91.
Brave Heart, Maria Yellow Horse. “The Return to the Sacred Path: Healing the Historical Trauma and Historical Unresolved Grief Response among the Lakota through a Psychoeducational Group Intervention.” Smith College Studies in Social Work 68.3 (1998): 287-305.
---, and Lemyra M. DeBruyn. “The American Indian Holocaust: Healing Historical Unresolved Grief.” American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research 8.2 (1998): 56-78.
Collins, Jo. “The Ethics and Aesthetics of Representing Trauma: The Textual Politics of Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 47.1 (2011): 5-17.
Craps, Stef. Postcolonial Witnessing: Trauma Out of Bounds. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Der Groote, Brecht. “The Palimpsest as a Double Structure of Memory: The Rhetoric of Time, Memory and Origins in Thomas De Quincey and Thomas Carlyle.” Orbis Litterarum 69.2 (2014): 108-133.
Dillon, Sarah. “Reinscribing De Quincey’s Palimpsest: The Significance of the Palimpsest in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Studies.” Textual Practice 19.3 (2005): 243-63.
---. The Palimpsest: Literature, Criticism, Theory. London: Bloomsbury, 2007.
Duran, Bonnie, Eduardo Duran, and Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart. “Native Americans and the Trauma of History.” Studying Native America: Problems and Prospects. Ed. Russell Thornton. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998. 60-76.
Foucault, Michel. “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.” The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon, 1984. 76-100.
---. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon, 1980.
Grover, Linda LeGarde. The Road Back to Sweetgrass. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
Henry, Gordon. “Allegories of Engagement: Stories/Theories — A Few Remarks.” Stories Through Theories/Theories Through Stories: North American Indian Writing, Storytelling, and Critique. Ed. Gordon Henry, Nieves Pascual Soler, and Silvia Martínez-Falquina. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009. 1-24.
---, Nieves Pascual Soler, and Silvia Martínez-Falquina. Stories Through Theories/Theories Through Stories: North American Indian Writing, Storytelling, and Critique. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009.
Herrero, Dolores, and Sonia Baelo-Allué. “Introduction.” The Splintered Glass: Facets of Trauma in the Post-Colony and Beyond. Ed. Dolores Herrero and Sonia Baelo-Allué. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011. ix-xxvi.
hooks, bell. Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. Boston: South End, 1989.
Howe, LeAnne. “The Story of America: A Tribalography.” Clearing a Path: Theorizing the Past in Native American Studies. Ed. Nancy Shoemaker. New York: Routledge, 2002. 29-48.
---. “Tribalography: The Power of Native Stories.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 14.1 (Fall 1999): 117-25.
Johannessen, Lene M. “Palimpsest and Hybridity in Postcolonial Writing.” The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature Vol. 2. Ed. Ato Quayson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 869-902.
Johnson, Kelli Lyon. “Writing Deeper Maps: Mapmaking, Local Indigenous Knowledges, and Literary Nationalism in Native Women’s Writing.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 19.4 (2007): 103-20.
Kidwell, Clara Sue. “American Indian Studies: Intellectual Navel Gazing or Academic Discipline?” American Indian Quarterly 33.1 (2009): 1-17.
Lemberg, Jennifer. “Transmitted Trauma and ‘Absent Memory’ in James Welch’s The Death of Jim Loney.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 18.3 (2006): 67-81.
Littlewolf, LeAnn. “Anishinaabemowin as a Way of Being: Language, Culture, and Identity.” McNair Scholarly Review (1997): 35-59.
Martínez-Falquina, Silvia. “‘How Tough Those Roots Had Clung’: Reading Louise Erdrich’s The Round House as a Palimpsest.” 2017. Forthcoming.
---. “Postcolonial Trauma Theory in the Contact Zone: The Strategic Representation of Grief in Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light. Humanities (Special Issue: Decolonizing Trauma Studies: Trauma and Postcolonialism) 4.4 (2015): 834-860.
---. “Re-Mapping the Trauma Paradigm: The Politics of Native American Grief in Louise Erdrich’s ‘Shamengwa.’” Memory Frictions in Contemporary Literature. Ed. María Jesús Martínez-Alfaro and Silvia Pellicer Ortín. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.
---. “The(st)ories of Ceremonial Relation: Native Narratives and the Ethics of Reading.” Stories Through Theories/ Theories Through Stories: North American Indian Writing, Storytelling and Critique. Ed. Gordon Henry, Nieves Pascual Soler and Silvia Martínez-Falquina. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 2009. 191-208.
Rodríguez Magda, Rosa María. “Transmodernidad: un nuevo paradigma.” Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World 1.1 (2011): 1-13.
Rothberg, Michael. “Decolonizing Trauma Studies: A Response.” Studies in the Novel 40.1-2 (2008): 224-34.
Silverman, Max. Palimpsestic Memory: The Holocaust and Colonialism in French and Francophone Fiction and Film. New York: Berghahn, 2013.
Simal, Begoña. “The Challenge of Going Transethnic: Exploring American Autobiography in the Twenty-First Century.” Revista de Estudios Norteamericanos 15 (2011): 33-49.
Simpson, Audra, and Andrea Smith. “Introduction.” Theorizing Native Studies. Ed. Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. 1-30.
van Styvendale, Nancy. “The Trans/historicity of Trauma in Jeannette Armstrong’s Slash and Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer.” Studies in the Novel 40 (2008): 203-223.
Visser, Irene. “Decolonizing Trauma Theory: Retrospect and Prospects.” Humanities 4 (2015): 250-265.
---. “Trauma Theory: Global Aspirations and Local Emendations.” The Local and Global in Postcolonial Literature. Ed. Punyashree Panda. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2014. 40-57.
Vizenor, Gerald. Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1994.
---. “The Unmissable: Transmotion in Native Stories and Literature.” Transmotion 1.1 (2015): 63-75.
---, and A. Robert Lee. Postindian Conversations. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
LicenseIperstoria is an Open Access journal.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 BY-NC License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of their work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. We require authors to inform us of any instances of re-publication.