The media technologies of settler colonial dispossession: Kyla C. Schuller, ‘The Fossil and the Photograph: Red Cloud, Prehistoric Media, and Dispossession in Perpetuity’, Configurations, 24, 3, 2016
Abstract: Two late-nineteenth-century media technologies purportedly recording the evolutionary past —the fossil and the photograph—helped naturalize the spread of settler colonialism across the Northern Plains. Settler colonial biopower works in the spaces in-between life and death to dispossess indigenous peoples of their land in perpetuity, seizing prehistory simultaneously with the present and the future. I uncover how Oglala leader Red Cloud drew on indigenous epistemologies of both fossils and photographs to negotiate the nuances of temporal and material dispossession, particularly through his work as a photographic subject. Red Cloud’s interventions with paleontologists and photographers illuminate how new approaches to media history that question the biopolitical divide between the organic and inorganic could be important components of denaturalizing settler colonialism.
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