The (Un)happiness of Urban Indigeneity in Tommy Orange’s There There



Year of publication 2024
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description This chapter explores the relation between Indigeneity and (un)happiness by foregrounding contemporary representations of urban Indigeneity which challenge previous images of cityscapes as sites of unhappiness leading to annihilation of Indigenous identities. Sara Ahmed’s notions of the normative “happiness scripts” and subversive “unhappy archives” are evoked to argue that while settler colonialism works to preserve its functionality by maintaining certain colonial policies in relation to Indigenous populations, Indigenous storytelling often activates unhappy archives to problematize settler colonial happiness. Tommy Orange’s There There (2018) is used to demonstrate how Indigenous characters struggle with fulfilling the (un)happiness scripts of what contemporary Indigeneity should encompass. They fail or deliberately refuse to subscribe to the pervasive stereotypical images related to the colonial concept of “Indianness”, not only turning the unhappy urban space into a place of intertribal community and belonging, but also turning their unhappy beginnings into happy endings, even if through chaos and violence.
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