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Dreaming of Pangaea: Decolonizing Strategies in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms

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Abstract:

This paper argues that Chicasaw novelist Linda Hogan, in her work Solar Storms, refuses to acknowledge geo-political borders that were imposed on Native lands during the conquest. Hogan’s novel centers on Angel, a young Native woman who must return to her family to learn about the traumatic history of her relatives and her community. As she reconnects with Native worldviews, Angel undertakes a canoe journey north into Canada to protest a massive dam that is about to be built on another tribe’s land. Despite the centrality of Angel’s journey into Canada, Hogan refuses to acknowledge the U.S./Canada border and instead imaginatively reenacts while reversing one of the colonizing gestures of the white explorers, who ignored Native place names and borders and imposed their own. Hogan thus sets up complex resonances between the colonial era and our own time which expose the nature of colonial trauma that persists in current hierarchies of power. Because this strategy is essentially one of absenting the border from her account, the narrative omission of the actual border crossing is easy to overlook; despite its unobtrusiveness, this is an important narrative strategy that attempts to decolonize the minds of Hogan’s characters and readers. One manifestation of this ideal of refusing geo-political borders in favor of older or no borders can be seen in Hogan’s repeated references to the idea of Pangaea, the theorized “original” landmass that eventually broke apart into the continents.
I contend that this is precisely what Hogan attempts to do through her decolonizing techniques that seek to both recover Native histories while also recovering from colonial history in order to enable tribal activism. Her characters journey north to protest a massive dam project that affects multiple tribes but, although the dam is being built in what is conceived by the dominant culture as another country, Hogan gives this fact no narrative importance; the Native characters know that the dam will affect all of them, therefore rendering externally imposed geopolitical borders meaningless, and also serving to place Native concepts of space and connectedness, rather than mainstream notions of “empty” versus “productive” wildness, at the center of the debate. Such a move is important because it reinstates not only Native concepts of space and sovereignty but also because it enables Hogan’s characters to claim political subjectivity by rejecting the imposition of alien ideologies that disempower Native subject positions. The climax of the novel occurs when a coalition of members of many different tribes, and even some non-Natives, effectively block the construction before the coalition, which has never been or striven to be monolithic, breaks up to pursue other goals. Through their reconnection with Native understandings of space and their successful creation of an effective coalition, Hogan’s characters claim citizenship as Native subjects who have a different but valid knowledge of the world and can forge the political power to help shape that world.
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MLA Citation:

Beadling, Laura. "Dreaming of Pangaea: Decolonizing Strategies in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p185775_index.html>

APA Citation:

Beadling, L. L. , 2007-10-11 "Dreaming of Pangaea: Decolonizing Strategies in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p185775_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: This paper argues that Chicasaw novelist Linda Hogan, in her work Solar Storms, refuses to acknowledge geo-political borders that were imposed on Native lands during the conquest. Hogan’s novel centers on Angel, a young Native woman who must return to her family to learn about the traumatic history of her relatives and her community. As she reconnects with Native worldviews, Angel undertakes a canoe journey north into Canada to protest a massive dam that is about to be built on another tribe’s land. Despite the centrality of Angel’s journey into Canada, Hogan refuses to acknowledge the U.S./Canada border and instead imaginatively reenacts while reversing one of the colonizing gestures of the white explorers, who ignored Native place names and borders and imposed their own. Hogan thus sets up complex resonances between the colonial era and our own time which expose the nature of colonial trauma that persists in current hierarchies of power. Because this strategy is essentially one of absenting the border from her account, the narrative omission of the actual border crossing is easy to overlook; despite its unobtrusiveness, this is an important narrative strategy that attempts to decolonize the minds of Hogan’s characters and readers. One manifestation of this ideal of refusing geo-political borders in favor of older or no borders can be seen in Hogan’s repeated references to the idea of Pangaea, the theorized “original” landmass that eventually broke apart into the continents.
I contend that this is precisely what Hogan attempts to do through her decolonizing techniques that seek to both recover Native histories while also recovering from colonial history in order to enable tribal activism. Her characters journey north to protest a massive dam project that affects multiple tribes but, although the dam is being built in what is conceived by the dominant culture as another country, Hogan gives this fact no narrative importance; the Native characters know that the dam will affect all of them, therefore rendering externally imposed geopolitical borders meaningless, and also serving to place Native concepts of space and connectedness, rather than mainstream notions of “empty” versus “productive” wildness, at the center of the debate. Such a move is important because it reinstates not only Native concepts of space and sovereignty but also because it enables Hogan’s characters to claim political subjectivity by rejecting the imposition of alien ideologies that disempower Native subject positions. The climax of the novel occurs when a coalition of members of many different tribes, and even some non-Natives, effectively block the construction before the coalition, which has never been or striven to be monolithic, breaks up to pursue other goals. Through their reconnection with Native understandings of space and their successful creation of an effective coalition, Hogan’s characters claim citizenship as Native subjects who have a different but valid knowledge of the world and can forge the political power to help shape that world.

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