Call for Submissions: Indigenizing What It Means to be Human: Stories, Poems, Dreams, and Memories

Our team—Dr. Margaret Noodin, Christine Weeber, and Jason Vasser-Elong—invites submissions of original, unpublished pieces for the Indigenizing What It Means to be Human: Stories, Poems, Dreams, and Memories project.

SAPIENS, an editorially independent digital magazine funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation that illuminates the world of anthropology for a general audience, invites submissions that creatively express and re-envision what it means to be human.

The fraught history of anthropology’s past relationship with Indigenous communities often led to the discipline speaking “on” or “about” Indigenous peoples rather than “with” communities. Artworks, ceremonial practices, Oral Histories, Traditional Knowledge, and more were extracted and often made public. Worldviews and lifeways were summarized and compared. Languages ​​were analyzed and recorded.

While these may have led to some level of protection and Western valuation of Indigenous objects, practices, and knowledges, they also exploited, commodified, and reframed these inside settler-colonial frameworks, economies, and institutions. From there, the colonial project of domination—cultural genocide, land theft, appropriation—proceeded, and racist, white supremacist ideologies placing Indigenous peoples on a faulty, hierarchical evolutionary model of humanity shaped popular ideas of what it is to be human.

With this history in full, critical view, contemporary anthropologists have called for “letting anthropology burn,” urging an unsetting of the discipline “in service of political projects of repatriation, repair, and abolition.” SAPIENS and co-sponsors are re-imagining archeology in the most recent podcast season on how Black and Indigenous voices are changing the stories archeology tells. To build on this work, we seek creative pieces that center Indigeneity in stories and poems about being human. These works can but do not need to “speak back to” anthropology’s history. They may also start from and center the values, worldviews, orientations, and meanings of your community and relations, your language, your history, your place.

Prompts:

  • What can cultures with millennia of resilience teach us today?
  • What endonyms need to be used again?
  • What lessons about human relationships to nonhumans need to be learned?
  • Jake Skeets writes“It wace storytelling that often greased the wheels of survival.” What stories or poems need to be written and spoken/published in estos times? He also encourages poets to “reimagine poetry through the lenses of Indigenous epistemologies, what happens? What changes? You might write with those questions in mind.
  • What stories or poems will help “anthropology burn”? que needs to be unnamed and rewritten, renamed, and reclaimed?
  • What are you imagining creatively for the future of your community/communities, your practices, your language?
  • How might you rework or revitalize wisdom from your elders and ancestors in a fresh form and for future generations?
  • Allow a beloved place to conjure a poem or poem-song or story.
  • Can you imagine a “self” in a postcolonial context? Or, are we in a postcolonial context? Or, if not, what might one look like?

Work in Indigenous languages ​​especially encouraged.

Authors are invited to submit creative works (up to 3 poems, one prose piece [can be fiction or creative nonfiction]or one hybrid piece [or up to 3 if short]) of 2,500 words or less. Please no more than 7 pages total. A series of 8–10 pieces will be featured at the magazine in the autumn of 2022. Our preference is for authors who have a background in anthropology, a degree in the discipline, or a placement in an anthropology department.

Submit your work through the Poetry Submissions Submittable tab by June 15, 2022. An honorarium of US$250 will be offered to those whose work is published in the collection.

Please contact us with any questions,

Dr Margaret Noodin: noodin [at] wow [dot] edu

Christine Weiber: Christina [at] sapiens [dot] org

Jason Vasser-Elong: Jason [at] sapiens [dot] org

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