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The Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Priya Joshi (Temple): "Decolonizing Archives"

Color pencil drawing of Indian prisoners arriving at Caddo, by Etahdleuh Doanmoe, Beineke Library WA MSS S-1174

Monday, December 7, 2020, 5:15pm, via Zoom

Our speaker writes:
The present moment of global protests renews calls to gather resources from the past to imagine a different future.  But how does one read the past?  How does one use archives responsively when one had no hand in their creation? When one does not share the ideologies of power and prestige that were key in creating them? What insights might postcolonial studies offer for decolonizing archives whose “colonial” origins have been rewritten not by decolonization (which often makes archives afresh), but by genocide (when archives are often erased)?
My remarks emerge from encountering a page of ledger art entitled “Indian Prisoners arriving at Caddo I.T. May 5th 1875.”  The drawing in color pencil was made by Etahdleuh Doanmoe, a Kiowa warrior taken prisoner in 1875, trained in “Western” drawing by his US Army captor, and part of an acquisition by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.   Doanmoe’s many drawings, like the Kiowa, are widely dispersed, with pages ripped from ledgers, gifted, and purchased across the past century.  Made under the eye of his Army jailer who sold them for personal profit, Doanmoe’s drawings record an ongoing cultural genocide and anticipate its arc. 
Reading Doanmoe’s art; examining its material (ledger paper, not buffalo hide; pencil not pigment); and reflecting on its place in settler archives provide the chance to hear voices buried across a century or more.  Above all, they provide the opportunity to reflect on book history’s role in decolonizing archives. 

About our speaker
Priya Joshi is Professor of English at Temple University.  She is a book historian and scholar of narrative who writes on the social work of popular forms from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries.  Joshi is completing a monograph on what Orwell called good bad books that rethinks the theory of the novel using anti-literary forms produced outside the metropolis.  She is the author of In Another Country:  Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India (Columbia 2002; winner of the MLA First Book Prize, the Sonya Rudikoff Prize, among others) and Bollywood’s India:  A Public Fantasy (Columbia 2015); and co-editor of The 1970s and its Legacies in India’s Cinemas (Routledge 2014). 

We are virtual for fall 2020! All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming Zoom meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Philip Mogen.