Vizenor on the archive…

Tonight I am reading Gerald Vizenor’s Fugitive Poses. I thought I would share a thought-provoking section of this work in which he discusses the archive.  He writes: “Transethnic” in the sense that the simulation of the indian is the absence of the native, and the indian is the other in the archive of institutive simulations.  Triage, the decisive sacrifice of the real, the unnameable, and the antecedence of natives, to save the indian, is the “archive fever” of preservation, and the cause of narrative dominance.  Natives are evermore the other, twice the other in the transethnic studies of indian victimry.    “There is no archive without a place of consignation, without a technique of repitition, and without a certain exteriority,” asserts Jaques Derrida in Archive Fever.  Moreover, “every archive …is at once institutive and conservative.”  Traditions, preservation, death, and deconstruction are the causes of the archive, the curious traces of the other, the outside, the radical separation of public and private contingencies.   The indian is an archive; the simulations, discoveries, treaties, documents of ancestry, traditions in translation, museum remains, and the aesthetics of victimry.  Cultural and transethnic studies are common access to the indian archive, but not to a native presence, that unnameable sense of difference.  The archive is institutive and, at the same time, it is the conservation and deconstruction of the indian in literature and history (50).    Speaking in Vizenor’s terms here in relation to the native vs. the indian, Vizenor makes an important point here in emphasizing the complicity of the archive in the erasure of the native.   I have also been reading about the role that collecting art and the discipline of art history play in the simulation of the indian.  As scholars, how are we also complicit in the erasure of the native?  Vizenor’s line “The indian is an archive” is stunningly powerful and one to sit with for a while….


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