On ‘Indigenous’: Kay Yandell, ‘Indian, Native, Indigene: The Reverberations of a Quiet Linguistic Revolution’, American Literary History, 2015
Excerpt: Over the past decade the people of aboriginal descent in the US who many know as American Indians or Native Americans are increasingly referring to themselves as—Indigenes. This word in turn has opened political and aesthetic possibilities whose linguistic inspirations, I would like to suggest, deserve greater critical acknowledgment and analysis than they often currently receive in US literary criticism. I will examine current uses of the terms Indigene and indigenous as they emerge from recent scholarly works on the concept. Yet first I would also like to explore why aboriginal people around the world might find “Indigene” a more accurate, more empowering term than others they have used in the past. Of course, within the mass culture that has come to characterize modernity, many groups tend to change the word by which they refer to themselves, so commonly in fact that the phenomenon of self-name change now has a new name itself: the “euphemism treadmill”.
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