Coeval Worlds, Alter/Native Words

Healing in the Inuit Arctic

  • Abdenour Bouich University of Exeter


Split Tooth (2018) is the debut novel of the Indigenous Inuk throat singer and artist Tanya Tagaq. Being an Indigenous Inuit literary work, the novel stands out notably for its plasticity in terms of form, style, narrative registers and aesthetic techniques. Indeed, it brings together prose, poetry, illustrations, Indigenous Inuit ontologies and epistemologies, Tagaq’s own memoir, and what she calls “non-fiction, embellished non-fiction and pure fiction” (Qtd in Mike Doherty 2018). Nevertheless, the author gives no indication of when the fiction ends and the non-fiction and memoir begin. In fact, the novel shows a nonconformity neither to those western literary genres of realism, fantasy or science fiction, nor to experimental literary categories of magical realism, speculative fiction, and imaginative literature; instead, it presents itself as what the Cherokee scholar Daniel Heath Justice terms Indigenous “wonderworks.” In his landmark study Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (2018), Justice writes: “Indigenous wonderworks are neither strictly ‘fantasy’ nor ‘realism,’ or maybe both at once or something else entirely, though they generally push against expectations of rational materialism” (155). Indigenous wonderworks, Justice explains, are grounded in Indigenous peoples’ cultural specificities and experiences, allowing for the resurgence and the recovery of Indigenous, ontologies, epistemologies, and politics that have long been dismissed by colonial discourses and narratives (154). In this paper, I approach Tagaq’s novel as an Indigenous wonderwork that provides a vigorous critique of the colonial capitalist modernity and its destructive “development” from which Indigenous Inuit peoples of Canada suffer and the ecological disasters provoked by resource extraction and global warming brought about by global capitalism and, in particular, Canadian capitalist expansionism in the Arctic region. I endeavour to examine the way in which Split Tooth mobilises, inter alia, a panoply of phantasmagoria and anthropomorphism as well as non-human agencies that pertain to Indigenous Inuit worldviews to capture the violence and the ecological impact of oil extraction in Nunavut where the novel is set.

Author Biography

Abdenour Bouich, University of Exeter

Abdenour Bouich is Amazigh/Berber, member of the Kabyle People. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Exeter in the UK. His research interests include colonial trauma studies, Trans-Indigenous studies, Indigenous futurisms.

How to Cite
BouichA. (2021). Coeval Worlds, Alter/Native Words. Transmotion, 7(2), 77-104.