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Vol. 8 (2019), Articles
This paper experiments with formal style as a way of working through the literary discipline’s lacunae regarding aesthetic value, race, and coloniality. Using a “counter taxonomy” as an example of academic dissent, this paper considers the limits of this form of dissenting speech within “public discourse” (Fraser; Habermas) by demonstrating a persistent occlusion in the literary discipline related to this mode of speech, which concerns the “primitive” subject. I define a term to unsettle a series of categorical terms long-held as guiding frameworks in our discipline: modernism, Native and Harlem renaissances, etc. This term is “Indigenous modernism,” a category that is a contradiction in terms because it announces its inclusion of the original term’s constitutive exclusion, ie. the primitive within the modern, through the language producing its erasure. Through this experiment, I argue for the necessity of a different kind of dissent, specifically a more capacious form of literary critique that interrogates the problems of holding a discourse in common and the specific needs of anti-colonial work. As a pedagogical exercise that models the benefits of failure, I suggest that this intervention requires us to think about how we represent truth through critique.