"Travels in the Glittering World": Transcultural Representations of Navajo Country
AuthorBurkhart, Matthew Richard
Committee ChairBabcock, Barbara A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn "Travels in the Glittering World": Transcultural Representations of Navajo Country, I compare how Dine (Navajo) writers and Euroamerican nature writers represent their experience of Dine culture and the place of the Navajo Nation. This project repositions the scope of analysis common to broader regional studies of the U.S. Southwest by engaging the many ways that representations of Dine Bikeyah (Navajo Country), as a nation linked to other political entities, have refracted the cultural concerns of several twentieth and twenty-first century writers and filmmakers. Centrally, I consider how representations stand in relation to the cultivation of cultural sovereignty. In doing so, I consider the limits and applicability of interpretive models, including "communitism," the "Peoplehood Matrix," and expansive imaginings of literary nationalism. Following scholars such as Lloyd Lee, I consider how elements of contemporary Dine identity--"worldview, land, language, kinship . . . [and] respect for their ancestors' ability to survive colonialism"--factor into twentieth-century texts (92). Responding to texts addressing several historical periods, I consider how artists address the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, stock reduction, integration into wage economies and the development of extractive industries, relocation, and periods of contemporary migration. Throughout, I consider how rootedness in culture and place allows Navajos to embrace paths of mobility and mindful alliances, which counteract forces which would confine them to the space of the reservation, to the status of a resource colony, or to the role as imagined font of exotic otherness. I consider how Euroamerican nature writers, with limited success, work against the impulse to tint Navajo Country in the sepia hues of primitivist nostalgia to embrace instead a restorative ethos that might support efforts to advance goals of cultural sovereignty. I consider how Dine authors call upon earlier Navajo literary traditions, as well as anti-colonial texts from other cultures, to negotiate the desire to "root" identity in a fixed place while traversing "routes" through and beyond Navajo Country, connecting that nation to larger networks of cultural exchange, urban relocation, economic necessity, travel, and pan-tribal, if not global, alliances working for the purposes of cultural sovereignty and environmental justice.