Expanding Materially-Instantiated Social & Spatial Relations: Almanac of the Dead as a Reconceptualization of History & Modernity

Laurie Rodrigues

Abstract


My study engages Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead (1991) with Thomas Edison’s short film, “Sioux Ghost Dance,” from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (c.1894). I will demonstrate how Almanac re-imagines traditional social and spatial arrangements, revealing the historically-specific space of social relations and re-announcing the spatial and temporal proportions of that space. The novel’s re-mapping of the Americas constitutes an alternatively-networked politics of pure antagonism that simultaneously betrays the discord of “coherent” networks and territorially-confined forms of modernity, but also the antagonism that belies the identitarian subject him/herself. This paper elaborates Almanac’s reading of capitalist networks and other Euro-American epistemologies as configuring a logic of stasis. Aligning Edison’s film with moments from the novel, I argue that such spatializations imagine actors within a blank space outside of history, figuring them as static scenery to the progress of modernity. Highlighting the virtual and material entanglement of spatial and social relations, Silko’s Almanac of the Dead asserts that social relations (as material practices) are limited to—and thus refigured by—the spatial formations that they actualize. The novel’s materialist strategy for resistance evades multiculturalism’s politicized and territorially-confined model of identity. Encountered in this manner, I argue that Silko’s novel performs a necessary re-configuration of alternatives to existing, static nationalisms and liberal multicultural identity politics.
Key words: Silko; Agonism; Epistemology; The Americas; Marxism; Territory; Identity Politics

Keywords


Silko; Agonism; Epistemology; The Americas; Marxism; Territory; Identity Politics

References


Brown, W. (1995). States of injury: Power and freedom in late modernity. Princeton: Princeton UP.

Laclau, E. (1990). New reflections on the revolutions of our time. New York: Verso.

Ostler, J. (2004). The plains sioux and U.S. colonialism from Lewis and Clarke to wounded knee. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Silko, L.M. (1991). Almanac of the dead. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Deleuze, G. (1986). Cinema I: The movement image. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP.

Zizek, S. (2000). The ticklish subject: The absent center of political ontology. New York: Verso. ----. (2006). The parallax view. Cambridge: MIT Press.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968%2Fj.sll.1923156320110203.006

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