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Indigenous Modernities and Modernisms

Marshall Berman’s famous description of modernity in All That is Solid applies to no one so fully as to the Indigenous populations affected by 500 years of global imperialism. Indigenous peoples experienced sweeping change across all aspects of life on a scale and with an intensity unparalleled in Europe and England, or among settler populations around the world. Longstanding lifeways suddenly became “traditions” set against the juggernaut of the new, and a ruthless version of history that consigned Indigenous peoples to the past reframed diverse nation-peoples as “primitive,” “primordial,” “antiquated,” and in all cases “vanishing” … despite the ongoing presence and resistance of Native peoples. Looking east from Indian Country, all that is solid really did appear to be melting into air in what might be considered modernity on meth: a version of the alienation and disorientation so eloquently chronicled by Kafka, Stein, Céline, Eliot and others, but amplified exponentially in terms of intensity, consequences, and lasting impacts for Indigenous nations, peoples, and lands.

Given such hyper-intensive experiences of modernity, differently configured and experienced in diverse times and locales around the world, how did Indigenous writers, artists, intellectuals, and cultural producers respond? Facing the double-bind of racialized discourses of modernist “tradition” and “authenticity,” in what ways and across what venues, mediums, genres, and forms did Indigenous creatives place what Scott Lyons calls their own “x-marks” on modernity? If modernism is understood in one sense as aesthetic responses to the “anxieties” of modernity, what modernisms have emerged from this 500-year maelstrom of chaos, change, dislocation, resistance, resilience, and resurgence? What writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, radio personalities, and intellectuals have even the expanded parameters of the New Modernist Studies still not taken into account? What ideas of modernism, modernity, and “the modern” have we missed so far, and how have they (and perhaps their erasure) provided the condition of possibility for ever-expanding field of modernist studies? If the history of modernity is also the history of Western imperialism and ongoing settler colonialism, how might an honest, sustained engagement with Indigenous modernisms and modernities—however defined—transform the field’s terms, scope, and objects of study?

Send 250-word abstracts to Kirby Brown ( by 4 March 2019.

Conference Location: Toronto, Canada
Conference Starts: October 17, 2019
Conference Ends: October 20, 2019

CFP Submission Deadline: March 04, 2019

For more information, contact: Kirby Brown