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Title: Abenaki Sociality and the Work of Family History
Authors: Roy, Christopher Alan
Advisors: Rosen, Lawrence
Lederman, Rena
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is about family history and the constitution of the social among the Abenaki, an aboriginal people often associated with the Odanak reserve in southern Quebec. It is an ethnography of belonging among a people whose status as aboriginal people is legislated by the Canadian government, and whose residence is (and has been) largely off-reserve, often in the United States. Of particular importance to this study is an engagement with family and lay history, largely grounded in my collaborative genealogical/historical work with (primarily off-reserve) Abenaki. My informants and I engage with complex histories of residence and membership, their representations, and the sociolegal contexts in which aboriginalities are formed. To begin my dissertation, I take my cues from an e-mail exchange with a family historian who had recently learned of her Abenaki ancestry and posed a series of very thoughtful questions to me. Chapter One explores her themes - documentation, family, and culture - analyzing the role of identification cards, family names, genetic testing, and the reserve as important factors in contemporary Abenaki life. Chapter Two turns to Abenaki conceptualizations of culture and history throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, presenting histories of Abenaki guides, Indian Encampments, lecturers, and informants. These predecessors of my 21st century informants came to conceptualize the Abenaki past in new ways as they interacted with clients, tourists, audiences, and scholars, and they in turn led their interlocutors to rethink their historical understandings. In Chapter Three I investigate contemporary historical practices, ranging from genealogical research to obituaries and eulogies. Particular attention is devoted to the creation of historical facts and the processes by which aspects of the past become meaningful in the present. How is significance attributed to Abenaki history? Attention to questions of home and homeland structures the next two chapters. In Chapter Four I consider the ways in which knowledge practices and regimes of expertise have been instrumental to the delineation of Abenaki territoriality and the reconstruction of historical migrations. The following chapter queries the means by which Abenaki have imagined home in the past and in the present. The imagination of the reserve is central to my discussion here. The dissertation's concluding chapter summarizes recent developments in the lives of some of the family historians with whom I have worked and identifies the aspects of their projects which differentiate them from those of more highly politicized indigenous historical research and the genealogical activities of non-native people in North America. In the end, I highlight the importance of theorizing Abenaki sociality and historical practice as mutually constitutive and call attention to the historical dilemmas being faced by all Abenaki people today.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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