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MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

Nation of Mechanics: Animality and Indigeneity in American Automotive Culture

Awarded: NOK 2.3 mill.


Project Number:


Project Period:

2023 - 2025


Nation of Mechanics: Animality and Indigeneity in American Automotive Culture

The NOMECH project examines fiction by Indigenous American authors of the late twentieth century for literary representations of animals, automobiles, and the natural environment. NOMECH develops a novel approach to reading the road journey in American fiction (a genre which has historically excluded Indigenous writers) by centring Indigenous stories in which the environment is frequently presented as a character in and of itself, in contrast to the colonial tendency to personify the cars and ignore the living nonhuman world under the wheels. Combining approaches from literary studies and the environmental humanities, NOMECH explores the extent to which Indigenous American authors present counter-narratives to the colonial story of automobility in which human contact with the natural environment is defined by driving over it: moving from a relationship based on dominance, conquest, and subjugation to one which places more emphasis on mutually beneficial ways of living with other animals and technology. Exploring fiction from 1960–2000 by authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), David Seals (Huron), Sherman Alexie (Spokane-Coeur d’Alene), while endeavouring to uncover lesser-known Indigenous texts in the collections of KWEC—the Kim Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection (Amherst, MA), NOMECH seeks to answer the following research questions: To what extent is humanity’s relationship to the automobile reimagined in Indigenous American fiction? How did Indigenous authors challenge the stereotype of technological ineptitude without compromising on traditional relationships to the environment? And how does the symbolic reverence for Indigenous ways of life in automotive culture obscure the very real violence against such populations? The outcomes of the project include, among others, a public-facing exhibition (online and in-person) at KWEC.

Funding scheme:

MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

Funding Sources