Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of English: English Studies
Christopher De Santis
This dissertation investigates the intricate intersections of code switching, trickster discourse and rhetorical sovereignty in the scholarship of Diné author Laura Tohe, as Tohe operationalizes survivance and alliance in complex ways, ways that “actuate a presence” in the face of ongoing attempts to render American Indian peoples absent from American rhetorical, literary, and geographic landscapes. Existing research in American Indian literatures and rhetorics often focus on the need for reclaiming rhetorical sovereignty. Yet, little work has been done to emphasize connections between the use of code switching, translation, and trickster discourse in order to give visibility to past and contemporary Diné peoples and to decolonize the Diné history. This dissertation uses decolonizing methodologies to demonstrate that Tohe’s writing is an action to regain the sovereignty and visibility that has been torn from the tongues and bodies of American Indian peoples, specifically the Diné, after years of colonization, oppression, and resistance. Chapter one provides the necessary historical context of the Diné and the Navajo Long Walk, and chapter two presents an explanation for the various theoretical and critical frameworks for this dissertation. Chapter three provides an explanation about the lens through which the visibility and voice of the Diné is exacted through Tohe’s use of rhetorics of survivance and alliance, as well as her attempt to decolonize the Diné history. Chapter four further explores Tohe’s decolonization of the Diné history and the reclamation of her rhetorical sovereignty through her use of trickster and trickster discourse, as she attempts to decolonize representations of the Diné and provide her own representation of what it means to be Diné. The dissertation ends with a reevaluation of the discussions surrounding the use of American Indian texts in an introductory American literature course. Chapter five guides educators in how using a text, such as Tohe’s, is beneficial to not only the promotion of American Indian texts in the classroom, but the necessity of disrupting, adding to, and maintaining our students’ acknowledgment, awareness, and understanding of the significance of rhetorical sovereignty and the power of those voices of American Indian authors in claiming that sovereignty and resisting colonial attempts to silence them.
Hoover, Jessica Marie Safran, "( Re ) Claiming History and Visibility through Rhetorical Sovereignty: the Power of Diné Rhetorics in the Works of Laura Tohe" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 724.