CFP – Special Issue of Canadian Journal of Native Studies: What We Do, What We Are: Responsible, Ethical, and Indigenous-Centered Literary Criticisms of Indigenous Literatures

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The Canadian Journal of Native Studies (CJNS) invites submissions for a special issue on Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) literatures with a focus on investigating responsible, ethical, and Indigenous-centered literary criticisms of these literatures.

In her 1993 landmark essay “Native Literature: Seeking a Critical Center,” Anishinaabe critic Kimberly Blaeser lamented a history of reckless and misdirected approaches to Native literatures, describing the field as perpetuating a dangerous and damaging paradigm in which the “implied movement” is “that of colonization: authority emanating from the mainstream critical center to the marginalized native texts” (56). Now, over a decade and a half later, literary scholars continue to struggle with the intersection of theory, responsibility, and ethics when it comes to Native literatures. In his 2006 book Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee Literary History, University of Toronto professor Daniel Heath Justice reminds us that this dialogue is crucial, as the role of the “literary scholar” is “the telling, preservation, interpretation, and creation of stories. Stories are what we do, as much as what we are” (206, original emphasis). So, who constitutes “the mainstream critical center” today, and how does one go about arguing “from” the Indigenous text in question instead of imposing “colonizing” theories on it? What defines theoretical marginalization of Native texts and, in turn, centering? What constitutes an “ethical” and “responsible” approach? What are some of the obstacles, paradigms, and possibilities available in theorizing Indigenous literatures through such lenses?

This special issue of CJNS invites contributions that discuss these and other questions towards the establishment of responsible, ethical and Indigenous-centered criticisms. Essays may consist of an evaluation of practiced critical approaches in the field or exemplify a new approach through the analysis of an Indigenous text. Contributors are strongly encouraged to examine Indigenous texts in their culturally-specific historical, political, and subjective contexts while emphasizing the uniqueness, complexity, and creativity of writers and their writing. Besides conventional, scholarly essays, provocative work that combines Indigenous storytelling and critique are also welcomed.

Theories may emerge from, but are not limited to, literary approaches to:

  • nation building, defining, recovering
  • historical and political aesthetics, rhetoric, memoirs
  • critical reader-text interactions and activism
  • tribal, intertribal, and colonial law and literary production
  • the role of kinship, community, adoption
  • urban issues, culturalism, pan-tribalism
  • the influence, innovation, and employ of “western” theories for Indigenous purposes
  • the continuing role of “oral traditions” and orality in writing
  • traditional language(s) and/or English usage in Indigenous literatures

Submitted essays must be between 5,000-7,000 words, in appropriate MLA format, and mailed in two duplicate hard copies by May 1, 2009. Questions may be e-mailed to the guest-editors, Niigonwedom J. Sinclair (niigon@interchange.ubc.ca) or Renate Eigenbrod (eigenbro@cc.umanitoba.ca). Please mail all submissions to:

Renate Eigenbrod
Department of Native Studies
University of Manitoba
Room 204, Isbister Building
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2
Canada