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“I’m just as Indian standing before you with no feathers popping out of my head”: Critiquing Indigenous performativity in the YouTube performances of the 1491s

Jeffrey L. Berglund

Abstract


This article analyzes two YouTube videos by the 1491s, a Native American sketch comedy troupe. By using the interpretive framework of social media and film studies, which considers the role of viewership and fan participation in shaping reception, this article argues that the 1491s challenge Indigenous people to resist becoming complicit in the processes of simulation through an assertion of “visual sovereignty”. Additional analysis examines a representative range of viewers’ responses to the videos to flesh out how the 1491s’ work is understood and valued by various viewers, many of whom take the opportunity to self-identify as Native American. Taken together with additional insights provided by the performers themselves, this article assesses how comedy is used to draw attention to the ironic situation of Native people “redfacing,” of fabricating false and stereotypical identities, to appeal to non-Native peoples, particularly consumers, but also to enact critiques.


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Print ISSN 1177-1801 Online ISSN 1174-1740