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Beyond the Mirror

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Across disciplines, scholars are overturning objectivist approaches to the environment in favour of theorizing the agency and liveliness of matter. The ecological promise of these ‘new materialisms’ is to invite dialogue among a wider host of agents, raising the possibility of an ethics that binds humans to the material entities upon which our livelihoods depend. However, any vision of global environmental justice is incomplete without engaging longstanding indigenous philosophies of materiality. The authors devote the first portion of this essay to an analysis of why it has been difficult for the ‘new materialisms’ to incorporate indigenous intellectual traditions into discussions of non-human agency, focusing on contemporary arts discourse. They then turn to a discussion of recent works by Native North American artists Jimmie Durham, Rebecca Belmore, Will Wilson and Jolene Rickard, which incorporate indigenous understandings of material with an acute awareness of the contemporary, global challenges of co-habitation.
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Keywords: Jimmie Durham; Jolene Rickard; Native American; Rebecca Belmore; Will Wilson; agency; animism; contemporary art; ecology; indigenous

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-01-01

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