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Twilight at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference

November 10, 2010

Getting ready to head out to the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Denver. So excited to talk Twilight and feminism at one of the biggest gatherings of feminist academics! If any of you are attending, the panel details are posted below. If not, I will be posting re-caps and other tidbits upon my return.

Difficult Dialogues and Resounding Silences: The Twilight Cultural Phenomenon from Indigenous Feminist Perspectives; Panel Chair and Moderator: Natalie Wilson (8 a.m. to 9:15 Saturday, November 13, 2010)

The Twilight saga is a massive cultural phenomenon whose representation of indigenous people has been largely ignored. The papers that make up the proposed panel will examine the problem of omissions and distortions in the existing feminist response to Twilight. Using an indigenous feminist theoretical framework, papers will draw on the work of Gunn Allen, Silko, A. Smith, Anzaldua and others in order to argue that the series representation of the Quileute people is a form of cultural appropriation. The presentations will analyze existing academic and fan responses, arguing that indigenous issues and indigenous feminist responses remain under-theorized and under-examined in the growing field of Twilight studies specifically and in the study of popular culture more generally. The panel includes three papers, each of which reveals that serious engagement with indigenous feminism can shift the dialogue about Twilight and popular culture, resulting in a broader, more intersectional approach to the feminist analysis of cultural texts and fandoms.

PAPER 1: White Beauty and the Native American Beast: Examining the Captivity Narrative in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, Melissa Miller

Media helps reinscribe dominant positions of power and authority (Althusser, 1971; Gitlin, 1980; Hall, 1982) with ideological and political implications (Gerbner, 1992). Themes of power, justification of violence, and emotional maturation surrounding the Bella/Jacob relationship in Twilight reproduce destructive discourses of racism, heteronormativity, and sexism to recreate the captivity narrative in which an honorable White woman is degraded by a lustful savage (Bird, 1999). Since media discourse of Native Americans is created by and for White audiences (Bird, 1999), the captivity narrative in Twilight may complicate not only audience attitudes about interracial relationships, but a myriad of indigenous feminist issues.

PAPER 2: Got Vampire Privilege? The Whiteness of Twilight, Natalie Wilson

Referencing the work of Andrea Smith, Leslie Marmon Silko, Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldua, and Peggy McIntosh, this paper will explore how white privilege depends on a silencing and delegitimizing if indigenous culture and theory. The paper will examine how what Sherman Alexie calls a “colonial gaze” colors both the Twilight texts and the surrounding fandom. Examining interviews with contemporary Quileute women in relation to indigenous feminist theory, the paper enacts a “difficult dialogue” between the white privilege that permeates the texts, the fandom, and the existing response with the reality of continuing indigenous disenfranchisement.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2010 10:13 pm

    I’m not attending, so look forward to the re-caps!


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