Staging Identity: The Co-Construction of Whiteness and Indianness in the Drama of Tomson Highway
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This thesis examines the construction of Indigenous peoples as Indians: as the degraded and dehumanised Other in relation to non-Indigenous peoples on this continent. It explores the operations of a White colonial manichean binary that simultaneously exalts and obscures Whiteness, while degrading and devaluing Indigenous identities. The operations of the manichean binary impose upon Indigenous peoples images that distort our perception of ourselves and foster racist stereotypes that encourage violence, both from within and from outside our communities, against us. The thesis argues that the hidden pole in the construction of Indianness is co-construction of Whiteness. In order for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to fully understand and overcome racist stereotypes, it is necessary to understand the role of Whiteness in the construction of Indigenous peoples as degraded Others. At the center of this thesis are Tompson Highway's two important plays: The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. While these plays have been criticized for promoting racist and sexist ideas and images, the thesis argues that the plays contain within them evidence to argue against and overcome such criticisms. An examination of the representations of Whiteness in the plays allows the critical reader/viewer an understanding of the social context in which the images of Indigenous identities are presented. The co-construction of Whiteness and Indianness, which is clearly explored in these plays, provides a context in which the images of Indigenous people can be understood as something other than stereotypical: as counter-hegemonic cultural productions that open up a space of resistence.