Mishuana Goeman, “Introduction,” Mark My Words.

Citation: Goeman, Mishuana. “Introduction: Gendered Geographies and Narrative Markings.” Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 1-40.

___________________________________ Argument: The introduction outlines multiple ways of thinking about mapping, with particular interest in how considering space comes to bear on the body, gender, and perceptions of nation – all of which intertwine and are mutually constituted.

Scope/Organization/Main Points: I mainly read this introduction for its usefulness in literary studies, and the relationship between cultural fixedness and space. Goeman suggests that “the literary (as opposed to other forms of discourse, such as journalism, surveys, BIA/field reports, Indian agents’ diaries, etc., in which Native women are continually a shadow presence) tenders an avenue for the ‘imaginative’ creation of new possibilities, which must happen through imaginative modes precisely because the ‘real’ of settler colonial society is built on the violent erasures of alternative modes of mapping and geographic understandings” (2).  (Re)mapping “is not just about regaining that which was lost and returning to an original and pure point in history, but instead understanding the processes that have defined our  current spatialities in order to sustain vibrant Native futures” (3).  Cultural fixedness is a concern: “I encourage us to move toward spatialities of belonging that do not bind, contain, or fix our relationship to land and each other in ways that limit our definitions of self and community” (11). In other words, “definitions of self and community” are tied to conceptions of space. This is related to the “norm of immobile Native women” (12) that Goeman’s work is resisting.  Indigenous “narrative maps” are partial and non-authoritative: “Native narrative maps often conflict, perhaps add to the story, or only tell certain parts. Stories and knowledge of certain places can belong to particular families, clans, or individuals. These maps are not absolute but instead present multiple perspectives – as do all maps. While narratives and maps help construct and definite worldviews, they are not determined and always open for negotiation” (25). She doesn’t elaborate that the non-absolute character of Indigenous stories can be an intentional choice based on personal responsibility (which Martin expands upon).  Stories link modes of storytelling, society and politics back to place: “We also have a tendency to abstract space – that is to decorporealitize, commodify, or bureaucratize – when the legal ramifications of land or the political landscape are addressed […]. The stories that connect Native people to the land and form their relationships to the land and one another are much older than colonial governments […]. Stories create the relationships that have made communities strong even through numerous atrocities and injustices” (28). At the same time, one of the “pitfalls of simplifying Native peoples’ relationship to land into romanticized and mystical or merely political categories are that these studies too often overlook the gendered and violent nature of colonizing Native lands” (37), which might be a myopia in my field. Indeed, what counts as violence in cultural studies?  

Points of Importance/Interest: ·

  • Goeman gives a good primer on the implications of non-authoritative accounts that maintain the possibility of cultural fluidity / ethnographic refusal even. Starting with Goeman would open things up for Audra Simpson and Keavy Martin.
  • Implicit in the discussion on abstraction is the idea that stories can reconnect politics, and perhaps economics, back to place (28).
  • What counts as violence in cultural studies?     



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