African Native American women’s rhetorics of survivance: Decolonization and social transformation



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This dissertation expands a lively conversation on American Indian rhetorics of survivance initiated by Anishinaabe Scholar Gerald Vizenor, who used the term “survivance” to describe Indigenous peoples’ simultaneous acts of survival and resistance. By bringing African Native American women’s survivance into the discussion, this dissertation disrupts previous understandings of rhetorics of survivance which focused exclusively on Native texts. The interrelated struggles and activism of American Indians and African Americans are accentuated, especially the women who play a significant role in passing on wisdom systems of survivance. Emphasizing Afro Indigenous women’s unique mixed blood heritage and gender identity, I highlight their acts of survivance while exploring their emergence within the context of U. S. anti-Indianness, anti-Blackness, and misogynist practices. Examining poetry, videos, art, texts, interviews, and social media posts, I explore how African Native American women’s rhetorics of survivance address various interlocking oppressions, including settler colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, racialization, anti-Blackness, anti-Indianness, Indigenous erasure, and gender violence. Chapter One investigates examples of African Native American women’s rhetorics of survivance. Chapter Two offers characteristics of the critical strategies used in these rhetorics of survivance. Chapter Three explores how ancestors and their wisdom systems are preserved through (re)membering. Chapter Four examines recovering identities, bearing witness to resiliency, and healing historical trauma. Listening closely to Black Native women’s (her)stories, I reveal their multifaceted rhetorics of survivance while practicing them.



Survivance, American Indian rhetorics, Cultural rhetorics, African Native Americans, Black Indians, Afro Native, Women, Decolonialism, African Americans, Native Americans, Stories, Activism, Social transformation