Can Euro-Western writers become allies of Indigenous peoples in processes of decolonisation? Many scholars across disciplines have pointed out that ongoing colonial power relations have shaped the Euro-American perception of Indigenous peoples as inferior, primitive, backward, or vanishing. To counter these stereotypes, Indigenous artists and writers are seen to have struggled to redress the erasures of their cultures, histories, and identities by destabilising, neutralising and dislodging dominant and hegemonic narratives. This state of research has, however, the inadvertent side effect to separate Euro-Western intellectuals from Indigenous ones.
This project titled Side by Side: Reading Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Literature counters this separation by asking: which epistemological, formal, and thematic distinctions and connections are present in post-war fiction on Native North America on both sides of the Atlantic? Are there cultural, political, historical circumstances and conditions conceivable that establish interconnectivity across the Atlantic world and give rise to alliances across ethnic divides?
To answer this question, this research creates an unexplored transnational constellation when choosing the critically acclaimed and widely circulating post-war novels of Native American Renaissance writers and their German-speaking contemporaries as a case study. It embeds the text corpora within their historical and discursive contexts – of German fascism, the Cold War, the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It asks for the wider implications of transnational knowledge formations by evaluating readers’ responses as evinced in archived correspondences. Above all, the research will contribute uniquely to the disciplinary development of comparative literature as a cross-cultural and cross-epistemological field. Relying on Cree scholar Willie Ermine’s vision of an “ethical space” when creating encounters between Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews, this research will pay attention to distinct and sometimes distant and incommensurable histories, traditions, social and political realities.