Biography Hosts Indigenous Conversations
Housed in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Center for Biographical Research, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly has been an important forum for well-considered biographical scholarship and life-writing for more than 30 years.
Biography’s Volume 39, Issue 3 (December 2016) adds to the center’s scholarship by bringing together a community of Indigenous voices from Hawai‘i, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Polynesia.
But rather than a focus on Indigenous biographies, this special issue features conversations about biography.
Guest editors Alice Te Punga Summerville and Daniel Heath Justice introduce the issue as “a conversation about Indigenous lives, the ways we understand them, the ways we represent them, and the responsibilities that come from doing this work in a good way.”
Among the many voices in this issue, three Indigenous filmmakers discuss the process and motivations behind their biographical documentations of Indigenous lives on screen (“A Conversation with Helen Haig-Brown, Lisa Jackson, and Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers with Some Thoughts to Frame the Conversation.”)
Another paper by Ngarino Ellis studies various Māori art forms as mediums of biographical memory, and proof that “the nature of biography is not fixed and static, but rather is reflexive and reflective of time and space, as well as cultural values” (“Te Ao Hurihuri o Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho: The Evolving Worlds of Our Ancestral Treasures.”)
Warren Carious also explores “Life-Telling: Indigenous Oral Autobiography and the Performance of Relation” as a vital form of biography, with a focus on a Lakota/Kiowa Apache storyteller’s practice.
Furthermore, each article in Biography Volume 39, Issue 3 comes with a subsequent address by another Indigenous scholar—sharing like-minded observations or the next possible conclusion to a given study—thereby giving the journal a call-and-response structure and keeping the conversation about biography and Indigenous identities alive.