Coeval Worlds, Alter/Native Words
Healing in the Inuit Arctic
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.
Copyright (c) 2021 Abdenour Bouich
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).