Indiscipline: Queering Native American Autobiography


ACLS Fellowship Program


Comparative Literature


“Indiscipline” examines collaboratively written autobiographies by Hopi people who lived through the Indian assimilation era (1887-1943). During this period, the US government mandated the displacement of Native children to Indian boarding schools that forced conformity to Euro-American culture. Focusing on boarding school narratives in the texts, the project demonstrates how these colonial institutions imposed Euro-American gender and sexuality norms onto Native students to dismantle Indigenous social structures, including non- binary gender systems, relationality, and communalism. It argues that Native students navigated and resisted heteronormative discipline through a practice of "indiscipline": a decolonizing method of defying, refusing, or failing to follow assimilative policies. The project’s theory of indiscipline extends to the storytelling practices of the authors whose refusal to conform to the self-written convention of the autobiography genre and its assumption of the Western concept of the self as an individual, independent subject constitutes a practice of intellectual sovereignty.