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Bethany Hughes, “Listen to Native Women: Redface and Its Gendered Uses”

May 23, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Organized by the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance

A talk by Bethany Hughes, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Assistant Professor of American Culture and Native American Studies at the University of Michigan.

In the nineteenth century Americans were infatuated with Indians on stage. From the Indian Plays craze starting in the 1830s to the wild west shows starting in the 1880s Americans were thrilled to witness love, war, and death… with Indians. The first superstar of the American theatre rose to fame playing an Indian. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West thrilled audiences by incorporating real, live Indians. Images of Indians, stories about Indians, poems about Indians, and songs about Indians saturated American culture. But most of these featured male Indians. Metamora, Uncas, Hiawatha. And later in the 20th century Tonto, Chief Bromden, and the crying chief. It is not because Indian women were absent from these cultural spaces. In the early 1800s there were several plays about Pocahontas, even in the most famous Indian Play, Metamora; or the Last of the Wampanoag the title character’s wife plays a signficant role. And in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West women were featured both onstage and off. Routinely portrayed in reductive and racialized tones Indian women were utilized to display the nobility or ferocity of Indian men, to benevolently save or succor white men and society, and to assuage settler colonial anxieties around genocide, conquest, miscegenation, and desire. However, there has been little critical or scholarly engagement with the Indian women of the nineteenth century American stage. This talk seeks to articulate and address this historical erasure by bringing together scholarship on playing Indian, Indigenous feminist critique, and American theatre historiography in order to answer the following questions. How does American theatre construct an Indian woman in performance? What can the gendered dimensions of redface reveal to us about the American project of race making? How does the Indian woman on stage resonate with and impact Native women’s quotidian lives? In short, What do we lose when we don’t pay attention to Native women?

Date: May 23, 2020

Time: 12:00 PM – 1:50 PM

Location: 208 Kaufman Hall


May 23, 2020
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance


208 Kaufman Hall