Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI by Dean Rader (review)
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Reviewed by
Dean Rader. Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011. 304 pp. Paper, $27.95; cloth, $60.00.

Beginning with the occupation of Alcatraz and including poetry, fi ction, fi lm, art, sculpture, and the National Museum of the American Indian, Dean Rader's book Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI invites readers to expand their understanding of Native art and literatures in order to see the many ways that Native peoples use these mediums to engage in visual and verbal resistance. Rader's writing style is straightforward and accessible, and his excitement for the subject matter and admiration of the work are evident on every page. The book is visually stunning and features numerous photos of paintings, texts, statues, and archival materials not usually available in print. This often strengthens Rader's analysis, as the visual impact gives the reader an opportunity to interpret and engage with the pieces. The discourse is also distinctly contemporary and includes pop culture and technological references. Rader refers to iPhones and Facebook and fi rmly places Indian artists and their work in a contemporary landscape.

Key to Rader's focus in the book is the concept of sovereignty. Rader offers a short nod to defi ning "sovereignty" but quickly glosses over the complicated nature of this defi nition. While Rader writes that "a consensus defi nition has emerged" and quickly discusses some of the defi nitions offered by various Indian scholars, this discussion is by no means comprehensive. Rader acknowledges that he believes "sovereignty is largely about self-determination, autonomy, and capability" and that "sovereignty means the ability of artists, writers, and fi lmmakers to tell their own stories in their own words, in their own language-whether that language is verbal or visual" (50). Throughout the book Rader engages with various forms of sovereignty, including cartographic sovereignty, semiotic sovereignty, cinematic sovereignty, cultural sovereignty, intellectual sovereignty, and even storytelling as sovereignty. Rader, [End Page 261] however, misses the opportunity to engage with key scholarship and scholars on visual and photographic sovereignty, including Muskogee/ Creek artist and scholar Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie's work, which would add a particularly important layer to Rader's analysis.

There are ten chapters in the book. Chapter 1 introduces Rader's concept of "engaged resistance" through the public proclamations, poems, and paintings by the occupiers of Alcatraz during the 1969 occupation. Rader provides a close analysis through the lens of "aesthetic activism" and also manages to include a focus on the humor, anger, and rhetoric of the pieces. His presentation is signifi cantly strengthened by the inclusion of photographs of the pieces he is referring to.

In chapter 2 Rader presents Salish artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith's series of paintings of US maps and her use of cartographic sovereignty. There is an obvious excitement and admiration in Rader's writing in this chapter, and he draws from poetry, photography, cartography, and literature to add to his thorough analysis of the work. This chapter is particularly enhanced by the included photos. Colored copies of the paintings are reserved for the center of the book and are gathered with colored copies of many of the other photos featured throughout the text. This provides an interesting juxtaposition, as the reds, yellows, and other colors are a very different experience from the black-and-white photos provided throughout the text. This decision to include color photos at the center of the book may have been a decision by the publisher, but it also demands a silent reflection on the colored photos away from the text.

In chapters 3, 4, and 5 Rader analyzes different literary texts (for which he includes fi lm), and while he does not attempt an exhaustive interpretation of the texts, he does bring these seemingly different texts into conversation. Rader wants to situate Native art, literature, and fi lm in conversation with each other to create a cross-genre discourse of resistance. In chapter 3 Rader looks at "post-Renaissance" Native American novels through a "tribalographic" lens; in chapter 4 he examines two very different...