Reconfiguring settler colonialism requires a pathologisation of resistance: Marko Davidovic, Reading Red Power in 1970s Canada: Possibility and Polemic in Three Indigenous Autobiographies, MA Dissertation, University of Ottawa, 2016
Abstract: The reorientation of federal state policy on Canada’s relation to Indigenous peoples that occurred in the years 1969-1974, although heralded as progressive, inaugurated not so much an age of liberation, restititution, and reconciliation as a bureaucratic and institutional framework for perpetuating settler-colonial processes of dispossession and assimilation. This was a period of intense struggle both within and without Indigenous politics, as activist dissidents to the increasing institutionalization of negotiation with the colonial state were branded as pathological and dangerous “Red Power” militants and phased out from mainstream political discourse.
As they lived through the contradictions of these processes, three such militants turned to writing autobiographies that would become foundational influences upon the development of Indigenous literature in Canada: Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed, Howard Adams’s Prison of Grass, and Lee Maracle’s Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel. These autobiographies, which explicitly spoke to the writers’ political and activist experiences and positions, occupy a complicated position in Indigenous literary history. Often relegated to a bygone moment of polemic, bitterness, and resentment, they have been more or less systematically misread or dismissed as works of literature by literary critics. This thesis proposes that considering these works in their formal and narrative specificity, as well as constituting a literary-critical and literary-historical end in itself given the dearth of scholarly attention paid to this period of Indigenous/Canadian history in general and these works in particular, can open up productive theoretical and critical insights into two ongoing disciplinary concerns: dismantling ongoing scholarly investments in colonial premises about and usages of narrative, subjectivity, and history; and envisaging possible relations between Indigenous literature(s) and literary study and anti-colonial political processes, especially processes of activism and movement-building toward decolonization.
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