Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Bolton, Linda

First Committee Member

Round, Phillip

Second Committee Member

Glass, Loren

Third Committee Member

Thaggert, Miriam

Fourth Committee Member

Prussing, Erica


This dissertation offers a transdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between settler-colonial bureaucracy and Native artistic production. Employing methodologies from literary, media and rhetorical studies, public health and organizational studies, I argue that the settler compulsion to manage Native people, formalized in the bureaucratic model, precipitated the twentieth-century development of a Native poetics of resistance. A managerial presence has always permeated U.S.–Native relations, as bureaucrats regulated Native activity, maintained records, instructed in Anglo-Western values and habits, and reported on Native progress toward assimilation. Bureaucratic parlance contained a crucial contradiction: the “Indian agency” and “Indian agent” originated at the start of—and for the purpose of—the erosion of Indigenous agency. I investigate how authors exploit these as tropes in deconstructing Native administrative subjectivity. Two faces of this presence emerge: the agent, instrument of surveillance and managerial practice; and the agency, management’s projection in space, creating a bureaucratic landscape that impairs Native health. Within all representations of bureaucracy linger traces of the unmanageable, an Indigenous fugitive presence that eludes classification, regulation, and narratives of control. I analyze these tropes in four realms of settler-bureaucratic practice, where a transmedia poetics develops within the field of Native arts that engage with administrative systems and discourses. I begin with expressions of therapeutic insobriety that defy Anglo-Western models of addiction and treatment; in chapter two, I delineate a wiindigoo poetics that critiques the management of Native foodways. A poetics of truancy surfaces in chapter three to express a dynamic of escape from representational closure by settler education. I argue finally that, in stories of sexual violence against Native women, there arises a poetics that privileges experiences of violence over legalist records that efface those experiences. The enduring U.S. bureaucratic obsession with regulating Native lifeways and modes of expression presupposes Indigenous disappearance, but it also produces a generative breach wherein contemporary Native authors and artists cultivate a poetics of resistance in a new literature and cinema of bureaucracy. Recent works make clear their intention to engage with historical representation, public policy and administration, and a panoply of institutional discourses—including the academic discourse we use to discuss Native knowledges and cultures.


vii, 274 pages


Includes bibliographical references.


Copyright © 2015 Joshua David Miner