- "I Wonder Where They Went":Post-Reality Multiplicities and Counter-Resurgent Narratives in Thirza Cuthand's Lessons in Baby Dyke Theory
Resurgence is a political philosophy written about by Indigenous scholars such as Gerald Alfred that argues that Indigenous peoples must rise above colonialism by asserting our sovereignty and nationhood. Resurgence bears resemblance to the similar ideology of refusal: the assertion that Indigenous peoples can embody sovereign self- and peoplehood in order to refuse amalgamation under a larger settler colonial regime, including settler institutions and discourse. Resurgence rejects a colonial version of Indigenous life (and truth) that seeks representation and recognition from the settler colonial state. The limit of resurgence, however, is that it frames resistance to the state within a singular, problematic version of Indigenous life. Not all stories have to be resistant or resurgent to be true.
In his theorizations around resurgence, Alfred points to the individualized need to heal oneself through spiritual transformation and revolutionary action against the state, arguing that Indigenous peoples who enact transformative processes and anticolonial interventions on the state will be "freed from the sources of their pain and discontent" (201) and begin "the long process of strengthening" themselves (199–201). The problem with Alfred's framework of resurgence is its neoliberal ideology that places individualized responsibility on Indigenous peoples for overcoming the conditions of coloniality that permeate their lives. Resurgence discursively fails Indigenous peoples from the Canadian prairies, and queer and trans Indigenous peoples, who experience an especially insidious web of institutional, racial, and spatial marginalization that they cannot simply rise above (Dhillon). Their position is starkly different from that of relatively affluent, self-sustaining communities like Kahnawake, where Alfred hails from, with well-funded economies, infrastructures, and community resources in place (Simpson).
Resurgence has been damaging to the project of developing rigorous Indigenous theory that attends to the intricacy of difference (i.e., race, class, colourism, location) because of the way it appeals to a singular, unified Indigenous struggle (Alfred 199–201), wherein the only oppressor of Indigenous peoples is the Canadian state (202). Resurgence theory has defined itself on the Indigenous capacity to disrupt colonial institutions, resulting in a great deal of institutional critique, but no structures for addressing intracommunity power differentiation within Indigenous communities. Instead of nuanced conversations around difference—such as class, gender, colourism, and locality—neoliberal Indigenous resurgence theory relies on a discursively unified "Indigenous struggle" that classifies colonialism as a "dependency … a problem to be dealt with head-on" (211). Alfred positions the Indigenous person as a vessel of political purity, one that inherently creates revolutionary processes through activism (257). But, in doing so, Alfred reduces indigeneity to reductive and flattened identity politics, and encodes his theory with value-laden and hierarchical connotations of failure if activist potential is not lived up to (211, 257). Alfred constructs a binary of resistance that flattens intersectional perspectives and perpetuates an epistemological erasure of prairie and queer Indigenous peoples, whom Alfred positions as failing to ascend above colonial imposition. Ironically, in doing so, Alfred constructs the Indigenous as perpetually alternative to dominant culture, constructing a discourse that must subjugate and diminish Indigenous bodies before it frees them.
For Thirza Cuthand, video, media, and film became a platform for early articulations of queer and prairie disidentifications [End Page 47] with the objectives of resurgence. In the face of singularizing subjectivities, theories, and movements like resurgence that relied on a flattened representation of indigeneity exclusionary to LGBTQ+ and prairie Indigenous peoples, Cuthand's work offers an unapologetic articulation of queer subjectivities that opposes a hegemony of homogeny. Cuthand chose not to identify with the majority cultural class, instead intervening in cis- and hetero-centric Indigenous art in anti-assimilationist ways. Instead, she places her Indigenous identities at the confluence of gender and sexuality as a means of surviving the boundaries of their participation and exclusion from Indigenous communities. Post-reality, or the overshare age of the Internet, early seeds of which can be seen throughout Cuthand's work, made way for multiple perceptions and perspectives in fields traditionally monopolized by hegemonic structures, including Indigenous art. Prairie-queer Indigenous artists such as Cuthand embrace post-reality, and its Internet...