In Cherokee Asegi udanto refers to people who either fall outside of men’s and women’s roles or who mix men’s and women’s roles. Asegi, which translates as “strange,” is also used by some Cherokees as a term similar to “queer.” For author Qwo-Li Driskill, asegi provides a means by which to reread Cherokee history in order to listen for those stories rendered “strange” by colonial heteropatriarchy.
As the first full-length work of scholarship to develop a tribally specific Indigenous Queer or Two-Spirit critique, Asegi Stories examines gender and sexuality in Cherokee cultural memory, how they shape the present, and how they can influence the future.
The theoretical and methodological underpinnings of Asegi Stories derive from activist, artistic, and intellectual genealogies, referred to as “dissent lines” by Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Driskill intertwines Cherokee and other Indigenous traditions, women of color feminisms, grassroots activisms, queer and Trans studies and politics, rhetoric, Native studies, and decolonial politics. Drawing from oral histories and archival documents in order to articulate Cherokee-centered Two-Spirit critiques, Driskill contributes to the larger intertribal movements for social justice.
“This book is an imagining.” So begins this collection examining critical, Indigenous-centered approaches to understanding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit (GLBTQ2) lives and communities and the creative implications of queer theory in Native studies. This book is not so much a manifesto as it is a dialogue—a “writing in conversation”—among a luminous group of scholar-activists revisiting the history of gay and lesbian studies in Indigenous communities while forging a path for Indigenouscentered theories and methodologies.
The bold opening to Queer Indigenous Studies invites new dialogues in Native American and Indigenous studies about the directions and implications of queer Indigenous studies. The collection notably engages Indigenous GLBTQ2 movements as alliances that also call for allies beyond their bounds, which the co-editors and contributors model by crossing their varied identities, including Native, trans, straight, non-Native, feminist, Two-Spirit, mixed blood, and queer, to name just a few.
Rooted in the Indigenous Americas and the Pacific, and drawing on disciplines ranging from literature to anthropology, contributors to Queer Indigenous Studies call Indigenous GLBTQ2 movements and allies to center an analysis that critiques the relationship between colonialism and heteropatriarchy. By answering critical turns in Indigenous scholarship that center Indigenous epistemologies and methodologies, contributors join in reshaping Native studies, queer studies, transgender studies, and Indigenous feminisms.
Based on the reality that queer Indigenous people “experience multilayered oppression that profoundly impacts our safety, health, and survival,” this book is at once an imagining and an invitation to the reader to join in the discussion of decolonizing queer Indigenous research and theory and, by doing so, to partake in allied resistance working toward positive change.
Two-Spirit people, identified by many different tribally specific names and standings within their communities, have been living, loving, and creating art since time immemorial. It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that contemporary queer Native literature gained any public notice. Even now, only a handful of books address it specifically, most notably the 1988 collection Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology. Since that book’s publication twenty-three years ago, there has not been another collection published that focuses explicitly on the writing and art of Indigenous Two-Spirit and Queer people.
This landmark collection strives to reflect the complexity of identities within Native Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit (GLBTQ2) communities. Gathering together the work of established writers and talented new voices, this anthology spans genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and essay) and themes (memory, history, sexuality, indigeneity, friendship, family, love, and loss) and represents a watershed moment in Native American and Indigenous literatures, Queer studies, and the intersections between the two.
Collaboratively, the pieces in Sovereign Erotics demonstrate not only the radical diversity among the voices of today’s Indigenous GLBTQ2 writers but also the beauty, strength, and resilience of Indigenous GLBTQ2 people in the twenty-first century.
Contributors: Indira Allegra, Louise Esme Cruz, Paula Gunn Allen, Qwo-Li Driskill, Laura Furlan, Janice Gould, Carrie House, Daniel Heath Justice, Maurice Kenny, Michael Koby, M. Carmen Lane, Jaynie Lara, Chip Livingston, Luna Maia, Janet McAdams, Deborah Miranda, Daniel David Moses, D. M. O’Brien, Malea Powell, Cheryl Savageau, Kim Shuck, Sarah Tsigeyu Sharp, James Thomas Stevens, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, William Raymond Taylor, Joel Waters, and Craig Womack