Blood Narrative is a comparative literary and cultural study of post-World War II literary and activist texts by New Zealand Maori and American Indians—groups who share much in their responses to European settler colonialism. Chadwick Allen reveals the complex narrative tactics employed by writers and activists in these societies that enabled them to realize unprecedented practical power in making both their voices and their own sense of indigeneity heard. Allen shows how both Maori and Native Americans resisted the assimilationist tide rising out of World War II and how, in the 1960s and 1970s, they each experienced a renaissance of political and cultural activism and literary production that culminated in the formation of the first general assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. He focuses his comparison on two fronts: first, the blood/land/memory complex that refers to these groups' struggles to define indigeneity and to be freed from the definitions of authenticity imposed by dominant settler cultures. Allen's second focus is on the discourse of treaties between American Indians and the U.S. government and between Maori and Great Britain, which he contends offers strong legal and moral bases from which these indigenous minorities can argue land and resource rights as well as cultural and identity politics. With its implicit critique of multiculturalism and of postcolonial studies that have tended to neglect the colonized status of indigenous First World minorities, Blood Narrative will appeal to students and scholars of literature, American and European history, multiculturalism, postcolonialism, and comparative cultural studies.
What might be gained from reading Native literatures from global rather than exclusively local perspectives of Indigenous struggle? In Trans-Indigenous, Chadwick Allen proposes methodologies for a global Native literary studies based on focused comparisons of diverse texts, contexts, and traditions in order to foreground the richness of Indigenous self-representation and the complexity of Indigenous agency.
Through demonstrations of distinct forms of juxtaposition—across historical periods and geographical borders, across tribes and nations, across the Indigenous–settler binary, across genre and media—Allen reclaims aspects of the Indigenous archive from North America, Hawaii, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Australia that have been largely left out of the scholarly conversation. He engages systems of Indigenous aesthetics—such as the pictographic discourse of Plains Indian winter counts, the semiotics of Navajo weaving, and Maori carving traditions, as well as Indigenous technologies like large-scale North American earthworks and Polynesian ocean-voyaging waka—for the interpretation of contemporary Indigenous texts. The result is a provocative reorienting of the call for Native intellectual, artistic, and literary sovereignty that fully prioritizes the global Indigenous.