This Screen Shot section includes three texts—an interview and two articles—that, together, occasion an unsettling movement in the development of an Indigenous phenomenology staged upon Screen Bodies’ concern for the critical tryptic experience, perception, and display. Such phenomenology, moreover, takes shape in the spirit of an enduring and persistent Indigenous cosmopolitanism, one organized by an appeal to a pan-tribal solidarity that is also not shy about drawing from efficacious sources of critique internal to European critical traditions. Together, these texts—and the source materials that inspire them—build rich ecumenical perspectives in the service of decolonial justice and pedagogy. And while the texts included here are composed in English, each draws from and references Indigenous languages, articulating one kind of Indigenous cosmopolitanism that makes use of English as a kind of “trade language.” To stage an Indigenous phenomenology by appeal to an Indigenous cosmopolitanism, in our contemporary political moment, thus calls for critical attention attuned to the perspectives, traditions, and imaginations of what Tlingit poet and author Ernestine Hayes describes as “Indigenous intellectual authority.” In this spirit, Indigenous cosmopolitanism occasions a decolonial-critical cosmopolitanism rooted not in the secular, Habermasian cosmopolitanism of Europe but in the modalities of consciousness, the literary genius and acumen, of Indigenous oral literary traditions. In the context of such a cosmopolitanism in which everyone is variably situated, across the spectrum that divides descendants of perpetrators and victims of settler colonialism, the critical imperative becomes a decolonial one, and non-Indigenous readers are called to shed the epistemological, ontological, and political priorities that broadly characterize European analytical and continental traditions, whatever their internal debates may be. Such an imperative forces phenomenological attention not only on the macrological instantiations of settler-colonial power but also against the “micrological textures of power” that ultimately shape the inner contours of self and, thus, what becomes phenomenologically legible to individuals situated in their cultural contexts.
Deadgirl (2008) is a horror film that gained notoriety on the film-festival circuit for its disturbing premise: when a group of teenage social outcasts discover a naked female zombie strapped to a gurney in the basement of an abandoned asylum, they decide “to keep her” as a sex slave. Accordingly, two sites of monstrosity are staged—one with the monstrous-feminine and the other with monstrous masculinities. Insofar as the film explicitly exploits images of abjection to engender its perverse pleasures, it would seem to invite “abject criticism” in the tradition of Barbara Creed, Carol Clover, and colleagues. However, in light of recent critical appraisals about the limitations of “abject criticism,” this article reads Deadgirl as a cultural artifact that demands we reassess how abjection is critically referenced, arguing that—instead of reading abjection in terms of tropes and themes—we should read it in diachronic, allegorical ways, which do not reify into cultural representation.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2014), written and directed by Mi’kmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby, is primarily presented as a residential school “revenge fantasy.” Some critics and reviewers of the film value it for its pedagogical possibilities, arguing that the film occasions opportunity for dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences about the legacies of the residential school system. Yet, numerous decolonial scholars and activists understand that dialogue alone cannot effect the quality of decolonial justice needed in the wake of genocide. This article approaches the film as a saturated phenomenon and examines the kinds of radical phenomenological transformation that must occur, especially among non-Indigenous audiences, for decolonial imperatives to become legible. Beyond developing a more comprehensive historical panorama of the violence and legacies of the residential school system, this article calls for a kind of translation of experience occasioned by the film, one that dramatically subverts and transforms modalities of consciousness on which coloniality is predicated.
An Interview with Ishmael Hope and Will Geiger on Tlingit House Screens and Indigenous Phenomenology
Sol Neely, Ishmael Hope, and Will Geiger
On a cold, snowy January night in Juneau, Alaska, Will Geiger and I convened at Ishmael Hope’s home—with his wife, Lily, and their five children—for dinner and cordiality in advance of our recording session. The Hope family is exceedingly generous with their time and knowledge, and, as is the case whenever we gather at the Hope home, one can palpably discern the multigenerational inspirations and relations that sustain their work, artistry, and community involvement. Once the children went to bed, we dimmed the lights and pulled out our books.
When the editors of Screen Bodies told me that the journal was interested in expanding notions of screen beyond cinema, I inquired about the possibility of interviewing Ishmael Hope and others on Tlingit house screens and, by a kind of phenomenological appeal, of focusing the conversation through a concern for embodiment. Originally, Ishmael and I invited Will Geiger and Forest Haven, a brilliant Tsimshian PhD candidate from University of California, Irvine, to participate, but Forest was unfortunately unable to attend. Over the years, I have worked closely with these three on a number of academic projects, developing a tight and trusted friendship sustained by mutual respect and interwoven eruditions.