The Representation of Two-Spiritness in Contemporary Native American Poetry: Defining Two-Spiritness and Reclaiming Sovereignty

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This thesis explores the question if “two-spiritness” and its representation in contemporary Native American poetry aid in reclaiming Native American sovereignty. The term “two- spirit” is defined and contextualised historically and contemporarily in order to create a framework for the analysis of the selected poetry. In this study, I will consider the work of nine “two-spirit” authors to provide diverse representations and include different perspectives. The selected authors include Joshua Whitehead, Luna Maia, Jaynie Weye Hlapsi Lara, Qwo- Li Driskill, D.M. O’Brien, Paula Gunn Allen, Maurice Kenny, Marcy Angeles, and Smokii Sumac. The analysis indicates that “two-spirit” identity and literature have the potential of aiding the reclamation of Native American sovereignty. “Two-spirit” poetry is often thematically in line with broader themes of Indigenous sovereignty: questions of identity, autonomy, self-determination, and tradition form similarities between “two-spirit”-specific experience and wider Native American experience. Consequently, “two-spirit” identity and literature should be recognised as valuable aspects of contemporary Native American culture that can help negate or remove the remnants of colonialism in North American society.
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