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Title: Performing ‘the Spirit of ’76’: US Historical Memory and Countercommemorations for American Indian Sovereignty
Authors: Toth, Gyorgy
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Editors: Gilroy, A
Messmer, M
Citation: Toth G (2016) Performing ‘the Spirit of ’76’: US Historical Memory and Countercommemorations for American Indian Sovereignty. In: Gilroy A, Messmer M (ed.). America: Justice, Conflict, War. European Views of the United States, 8, Heidelberg, Germany: Winter University Press, pp. 131-150.
Keywords: Cold War
American Indians
Native Americans
Performance Studies
Memory Studies
United States history
Issue Date: 2016
Series/Report no.: European Views of the United States, 8
Abstract: Approaching its topic from the intersection of History, Memory Studies and Performance Studies, this article will advance the concept of counter-commemorations in its investigation of the ways in which Native American activists used U.S. national historical memory to make interventions for expanded Indian sovereignty rights in the Late Cold War. In their efforts to educate the public and influence policy, American Indian activists held counter-commemorations in which they performed Native critiques of the Anglo-centered view of the American past, and used media attention to push for historical and social justice for Native Americans. Drawing on public and declassified government documents, AIM-related archival collections, newspaper accounts and memoirs, this article argues that radical Native sovereignty activists strategically used the position of Indians in the Euro-American cultural imagination and national memory as leverage to push for the recognition of enhanced sovereignty rights. Using Diana Taylor's Performance Studies concept of scenarios, I will analyze several Indian interventions in U.S. historical memory, and by placing them in historical context, I will establish counter-commemorations as part of a calculated strategy of the radical Indian sovereignty movement during the Late Cold War and beyond, and as a counter use of official memory by social movements, which productively complicates currently existing categories in Memory Studies. This article is part of a project I have conducted at the Centre for Collective Memory Research (Centra pro výzkum kolektivní paměti) at the Institute of International Studies, Charles University, Prague, the Czech Republic. Its writing also benefited from a research residency of the author at the International Forum for U.S. Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014.
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