This upper-level undergraduate seminar focused on the field of Native American/Indigenous studies as both a body of critical theory and a form of cultural critique. Interdisciplinary in nature, the seminar examined the theories and major questions in the field, with a deliberate departure from a typical area-studies approach. Major emphasis was put on settlement and resistance in North America, but also in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.
One component of the seminar involved the examination of the Native American genocide and its consequences, especially from the perspectives of Native American/Indigenous scholars. In particular, the course explored the relationship between settler colonialism and genocide, approaching settler colonialism as both a theoretical concept and a lived experience.
“…the whole experience of interacting with the VHA feels like resistance to each genocidal project - these people all survived and we get to hear their stories and their children’s stories and their children’s children’s stories and so on. The VHA and its archived stories is resistance to the violence of erasure, denial, and dismissal.”
While conducting the assignment, some students experienced difficulties watching the testimonies. The class handled this by always listening to the testimonies in groups and limiting the time spent in the archive. At the end of the semester, the students' work in the archive proved to be an extraordinary bonding experience, and much more; several of the students reflected on learning a great deal about the everyday life and historical circumstances across times and locations. According to one of the students, having the opportunity to work with a primary source was of a tremendous educational benefit, which enhanced class lectures and assigned scholarly readings.
“It was good to have a primary source, rather than just have to rely on the textbook. It was a lot more educational, and I was able to stay focused.”
If you are interested in incorporating the Visual History Archive into your course and want to discuss ideas for doing so, please feel free to consult with our staff by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.