“Studying the popular has taught me invaluable lessons about the power of print culture, introduced me to myriad forgotten creators, led to collaborations with social justice communities—and supported a richly rewarding career.”
The lowest point of genocidal policies and practices against Indigenous peoples coincided with the rise of mass culture: a conjunction which produced virulent, enduring stereotypes of “Indians.” Simultaneously, however, Indigenous artists seized new popular forms to create agency and community. On far-flung circuits of vaudeville—the first global system of mass entertainment—Seneca, Mohawk, Penobscot, Cherokee, and other performers forged virtuoso acts and kinship networks, while negotiating creative space with non-natives “playing Indian”.
During the two year period of her Killam Research Fellowship Dr. Christine Bold will, as a non-Indigenous scholar, continue to develop relations of research exchange with contemporary Indigenous creators to contribute to the recovery of this richly inventive community of early Indigenous performers. Long under the scholarly radar, their lives and creative work change the story on who made popular culture and, more generally, modernity.
Photo: Ander McIntyre