Visualizing Genocide

Indigenous Interventions in Art, Archives, and Museums

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Visualizing Genocide examines how creative arts and memory institutions selectively commemorate or often outright ignore stark histories of colonialism. The essays confront outdated narratives and institutional methods by investigating contemporary artistic and scholarly interventions documenting settler colonialisms including land theft, incarceration, intergenerational trauma, and genocide. Interdisciplinary approaches, including oral histories, exhibition practices, artistic critiques, archival investigations, and public arts, are among the many decolonizing methods incorporated in contemporary curatorial practices.

Rather than dwelling simply in celebratory appraisals of Indigenous survival, this unprecedented volume tracks how massacres, disease, removals, abrogated treaties, religious intolerance, theft of land, and relocation are conceived by contemporary academics and artists. Contributors address indigeneity in the United States, Norway, Canada, Australia, and the Caribbean in scholarly essays, poems, and artist narratives. Missions, cemeteries, archives, exhibitions, photography, printmaking, painting, installations, performance, music, and museums are documented by fourteen authors from a variety of disciplines and illustrated with forty-three original artworks.

The authors offer honest critique, but in so doing they give hopeful and concrete strategies for the future. This powerful collection of voices employs Indigenous epistemologies and decolonial strategies, providing essential perspectives on art and visual culture.

T. Christopher Aplin
Emily Arthur
Marwin Begaye
Charlene Villaseñor Black
Yve Chavez
Iris Colburn
Ellen Fernandez-Sacco
Stephen Gilchrist
John Hitchcock
Michelle J. Lanteri
Jérémie McGowan
Nancy Marie Mithlo
Anne May Olli
Emily Voelker
Richard Ray Whitman

Foreword by Charlene Villaseñor Black

Introduction: The Unknowable Known Past
Yve Chavez and Nancy Marie Mithlo

Dialogue with Sons of the Sun
Richard Ray Whitman

Part I. Reclaiming Space Through Presence Making

1. Remembering Our Ancestors: Photographing Mission San Gabriel’s Cemetery
Yve Chavez
2. The Aftermath: Visualizing Genocide
Stephen Gilchrist
3. Sámi Dáiddamusea Is Not a Metaphor
Jérémie Mcgowan and Anne May Olli
4. Maria Hupfield’s Nine Years Towards the Sun: Reflections on Survival and Other Acts of Defiance in Performative Art Practice
Michelle J. Lanteri

PART II. Control of Historical Resources, Reappropriation

5. Owning Hate, Owning Hurt: The Aesthetics of Violence in American Indian Contemporary Art Nancy Marie Mithlo
6. Translations / Reanimations / Presences: Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project and the Remaking of Umon hon Archives
Emily L. Voelker
7. Probing the Surface: Artist Chris Pappan’s Material and Conceptual Work with Ledger Art
Iris Colburn
8. Marwin Begaye: End of the Trail as Native Humor
Nancy Marie Mithlo


9. Emily Arthur: Final Determinations: “Cherokee by Blood”
Nancy Marie Mithlo
10. Dying to Know You: Critical Insights from a Case Study of Indigenous Representations in Museums of the Early Republic
Ellen Fernandez-Sacco
11. Oklahome
T. Christopher Aplin and Nancy Marie Mithlo
12. Richard Ray Whitman: Street Chiefs Revisited
Nancy Marie Mithlo


“This powerful and rich volume offers deep examinations of history and contemporary practice among Indigenous artists working across multiple genres, confronting the legacies of settler colonialism and genocide.”—Virginia Scharff, author of The Women Jefferson Loved

“Overall, this edited volume makes a rich contribution to visual memory studies,precisely because it draws readers into the reality of marginalized perspectives and stories while providing a sharp political critique of the reasons for this ongoing marginalization.”—Katrin Antweiler, International Affairs

Visualizing Genocide addresses the complexity of these painful topics in an unflinching and empathetic manner, offering hope and a glimpse of the path forward. Museum and archive professionals will find the collection an invaluable resource in the crucial work of decolonization. Moreover, the volume is engaging and accessible for all of those interested in Native art and alternative space-making; numerous images of the artwork discussed are included, reproduced in both color and black and white.”—Sarah Greenwell-Scott, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

“This book is a welcome intervention and invitation for us to begin to talk about the histories and ongoing effects of genocide through collective and relational Indigenous lenses. It also significantly highlights the inventive work of Indigenous artists and curators in this regard.”—Mark Minch-De Leon, Native American and Indigenous Studies

“Accompanied with the intellectual, yet approachable analyses of the artworks discussed, this method of 'visualizing genocide' paves a way for the future through creatively unpacking the past.”—Ishmael Elias, News from Native California

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