As a Ph.D. student, our research is who we are and what we are. For the time we are in the program, our research focus defines us--because it is not only our work, but how we work, what interests us, and predicts what our future can be. Here is a current snapshot, a current focus, of my research:
Queer Indigenous Vogue, Realness, and Fierceness:
Dancing our selected kinships, and our resilience into being.
My dissertation will focus on how Native Americans of the Western Hemisphere have deployed the dance form of vogue (voguing) as a method of decolonization, anti-colonialism, and resilience. Though the dance form of vogue was founded and stewarded by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Black and Latinx communities, I have observed Native Americans using the form to create their own kinships, as well as form political-artistic alliances with other queer peoples of color. My project will be to examine how queer Indigenous peoples, often self-called Two-Spirit (2S, 2spirit) people, have created their own families, kinship networks, and ceremonies (often due to being ostracized from their tribal communities, because of their sexual orientation or identity). Though in the past, some tribes revered 2spirit people, the project of British and Spanish imperial colonialism’s “heteronormative patriarchy” destroyed this cultural value for some tribes –which in turn has led to the extreme general mistreatment of LGBTQ2S peoples. Seeking family, and ways to offer their love, talents, and life, some Two-Spirit peoples have entered the spheres of “Imperial Drag Councils” (private societies in charge of drag balls and gay neighborhood cultural affairs), created “Two-Spirit Powwows”, and participated in “The Ballroom Scene” (where voguing is stewarded). Today, throughout the Western Hemisphere, Native American 2spirit people vogue to celebrate and openly proclaim both their queerness and the indigenous ancestry, while simultaneously protesting imperial heteronormative patriarchy.
In this project, I will focus on the Indigenous voguers (who I know personally and meet with often through the ballroom scene) of Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico. My informants will include, but are not limited to: Omar Apocalipstic (Huichol), Sissy Prolific (Paiute), Legendary Overall Mother Amazon Leiomy (Taino), Waawaate Fobister (Anishinaabe), Felipe Rose (Lakota Sioux), and Landa Lakes (Chickasaw). To investigate how Native American LGBTQ2S are using vogue, and its ballroom scene, to create their own Indigenous kinship networks, I will conduct an intimate ethnography—which I define as a conglomeration of interviews and face-to-face participatory engagements to produce personal oral histories as evidence of vogue practice. To move deeper, and examine how Indigenous vogue produces new interpretations of “authentic American Indian” identity using drag and realness, I also plan to participate in vogue balls and 2spirit Powwows, to produce and analyze self-reflections, and conduct choreographic analysis of vogue performances. I will showcase, through digital ethnography, how 2spirit peoples use social media to create and sustain kinship networks. With review of queer history and 2spriti literature, I will better situate contemporary dance practices of 2spirit peoples, and how they have sustained their communities, and lives, through the continual project of colonialism. Lastly, I will demonstrate what forms of medicine vogue has produced through its gift of uniting LGBTQ2S American Indian peoples, and through its establishment of queer coalitions of color.
To date there are less than fifteen academic works that address voguing, and there are less than two articles that look at this culture and its ideologies from the lens of Indigenous studies. Little work on Indigenous dance directly address its efforts and struggle of queer coalition of color community building. Thus, this project expands on the work of these fields in by challenging, though synthesis, the borders of these fields of study that have been previously been established as discrete. In this unique way, I build on the generous and growing trend to recognize and remember the work of 2spirit people in sustaining the resilience of both their Indigenous communities, and the broader LGBTQ2S communities.