Buffalo Dancer: The Biography of an Image


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


This dissertation follows Karl Bodmer’s “Mandan Buffalo Dancer” (1834) across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as the portrait of a Mandan “beróck-óxatä” (buffalo bull society) leader traveled in and out of various historical and cultural contexts, forms, and genres. Treating this image’s journey as a biography, this project tracks “Mandan Buffalo Dancer” across both Native American and non-Native settings and develops the first book-length study that bridges American and Native American art histories and Native studies. Tracing how this story’s various agents used print, it argues that: nineteenth-century systems of racial oppression emerged in part through the very mechanics by which print operates; and Native communities simultaneously formed an alternative history of print that eventually fed Native political activism in the 1960s.