At this point I am running out of new ways to say that we are continuing to post abstracts for our upcoming conference at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, 4-5 July 2017 – register here! – but we plod on regardless.
One of the great things about the GJRA is its diversity. Already this week we’ve posted abstracts about copyright education, gender violence, and justice more broadly. Today’s paper shows further possibilities of graphic justice, where the act of storytelling becomes tied into the implementation of the law and the pursuit of cultural justice.
Here is the abstract for ‘The Journey To Complete The Work: Comics, storytelling and the law in the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act’, by Sonya Atalay (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Jen Shannon (University of Colorado) and John G Swogger.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA - Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048) is a United States federal law enacted in 1990, which aims to protect cultural material on federal and tribal lands, and imposes requirements on Federal Agencies and museums which receive federal funding to return such material – including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony - to Native peoples.
In practice, both tribes and museums have found both compliance with and implementation of NAGPRA law complex, contentious and challenging. Sometimes the process of repatriation is straight-forward, and sometimes it is not. In particular, the requirement under NAGPRA for indigenous knowledge in the form of oral histories to be afforded equal weight with archaeological or “scientific” forms of evidence have caused tension in implementation of the law.
Journeys To Complete The Work is a graphic work which combines information about the legal requirements and limits of NAGPRA with stories illustrating how the law has been applied during specific instances of repatriation. The aim of the comic is to provide tribes, museums and archaeologists with a point of reference that brings together the legal and personal sides of the issue. The comic's use of storytelling as a form of information mirrors the use of testimony and oral history as forms of evidence within NAGPRA implementation.
The comic is to be published later this summer, and will be launched at the 2017 Indigenous Comic Con in New Mexico.
Sonya Atalay is assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her work is in engaged (public) anthropology, focusing on research partnerships with indigenous and local communities. She works across the disciplinary boundaries of cultural anthropology, archaeology, heritage studies, and Native American & Indigenous studies.
Jen Shannon is Curator and Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Her research focuses on collaborative practice and connecting tribes to museum collections through NAGPRA consultations, co-directed research projects and exhibits, digitizing tangible and intangible heritage, the development of online access to collections, and oral history projects.
John Swogger is an archaeological illustrator who produces specialist technical illustrations for excavation and research projects, as well as reconstructions and visualizations of the past for museums and popular publications. Over the past decade he has increasingly used comics as a way to present archaeological information.