Theses Doctoral

Poetics, Performance, and Translation in Eastern Cherokee Language Revitalization

Snyder, Sara LeeAnne

This dissertation examines the creation and performance of expressive vocal practices by Eastern Cherokees as they seek to revitalize the Cherokee language in North Carolina in the Eastern part of the United States. The Eastern Band of Cherokee of Indians is facing the impending loss of its heritage language due to a community-wide shift to English. To combat this loss, the community now operates a Cherokee language immersion school, New Kituwah Academy. This dissertation is based on ethnographic and linguistic data collected during the researcher’s five years as the music and art instructor at New Kituwah. Indigenous epistemologies of language and poetics are brought into discourse with methodological and analytical approaches in ethnomusicology and linguistic anthropology.
Performative vocal practices are processes through which Eastern Cherokee speakers negotiate what it means to be “modern Kituwah citizens.” Contemporary Cherokee voices emerge from the ambiguities of poetic “language play” in speech and song. “Voice” is both a metaphorical representation of a Cherokee sovereign and an actual materiality produced by embodied, speaking, and singing subjects. The translation of new popular song texts into Cherokee is likewise explored as “working” or “playing” with language. Translation is a poetic process imbedded within broader socio-cultural systems of meaning and perception (ontologies). Translation and vocal play destabilize semantic connections and open up the possibility for alternative interpretations and meanings; they allow for sovereignty to flourish as Cherokees reimagine and reshape themselves and their world.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Fox, Aaron Andrew
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 12, 2016