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The Border-Crossing Fiction of Louise Erdrich, James Welch, Thomas King, and Tomson Highway: Kinship Across Nations and Languages

Author Patrizia ZANELLA
Director of thesis Thomas Austenfeld
Co-director of thesis Birgit Däwes
Summary of thesis My thesis examined the border-crossing nature of Indigenous literatures through the example of four Indigenous writers from North America. Specifically, I analyzed literary works by Anishinaabe writer Louise Erdrich (1954-), Blackfeet-A’aninin (Gros Ventre) writer James Welch (1940-2003), Cherokee writer Thomas King (1943-), and Woods Cree writer Tomson Highway (1951-). I demonstrate how their work challenges the spatial, temporal, legal, racial, and linguistic boundaries imposed by Euro-Western settler-colonial border regimes. Their fiction affirms kinship connections across national borders, pertaining to both nation-states and Indigenous nations, and resists settler-colonial strategies of containment, dispossession, and erasure. I further demonstrate how their work engages with the violent crossing of interpersonal boundaries, the assault against Indigenous languages, and the connection between Euro-Western settler-colonial border regimes and sexual violence against Indigenous people, especially women, girls, queer, trans, and Two-Spirit people. Throughout, I employ nation-specific epistemologies by focusing on Indigenous stories as a source and expression of Indigenous legal orders. Moreover, I pay attention to the transformative function of Indigenous languages and investigate their interconnection with Indigenous sovereignty and kinship. As this thesis argues, contemporary Indigenous literatures thus provide rich resources for destabilizing and questioning the discursive and material violence of Euro-Western border regimes.
Status finished
Administrative delay for the defence 2019