Animals in the archive: Some ways to access Indigenous cultural texts

Indigenous cultural texts are true: if we start with this premise, then how so? In this seminar, I will provide some introductory information, and we will then compare an example of a traditional oral story as 1) a sound-recording in an undigitised archive and then 2) as a written text that has been transcribed, translated, and published, adapting a method that the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation programme has developed to respond, with a limited amount of context, to a compelling set of texts—a challenge that every researcher faces when working across cultures.

The story we will look at concerns Wolverine, an animal of immense power in the Dene culture from which this story comes. Our purpose will be to discuss, using this example, some ways that we might read Indigenous oral stories with sensitivity to their aesthetic and also ethical dimensions, given the problems of access facing this non-canonical corpus: access in terms of circulation within and outside of the archive; in terms of source language and in translation; and in terms of viewpoints both cultural and ontological, where power is both an animal and a human phenomenon. Wolverine is a transformer who destroys as well as revivifies through language and song. Can Wolverine’s epistemology translate?

To read the story we will look at in advance, please email Jasmine at jasmine.r.spencer@gmail.com.

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