Project Reviews

"On Native Ground: Indigenous Presences and Countercolonial Strategies in Southern Narratives of Captivity, Removal, and Repossession"
Created and maintained Eric Gary Anderson and Southern Spaces, Emory University Libraries.

Eric Gary Anderson, Associate Professor of English at George Mason University, argues that modern Native writers are taking back non-Indian captivity and Removal narratives as part of a modern-day repossession of 'Native ground.' While resisting the imposition of Southern borders and region (despite its inherent flexibility and permeability) in a counter-colonial analysis of all ground being 'Native ground,' Anderson argues that there are certainly regional home identities that cross between Southern Studies and Native Studies. The creation of Native identity that defines itself by tribes present in the South works to reveal the truth of the Native experience in the colonial South.

Anderson compares both non-Indian captivity and removal narratives from the early to mid-1800s and modern literature written by Native authors to prove not only the cross-over between Southern Studies and Native Studies, but also to demonstrate the repossession of the non-Indian narratives by Indian people today. He looks particularly at captivity narratives about the Seminole tribe before and after Removal to demonstrate the varied use of these narratives. Non-Indians used these narratives as propaganda to support Andrew Jackson's presidency and the Removal Act (1830). As Anderson states, tribes are depicted as "both menacingly present and uncannily absent," during this time period. Modern Native literary critics and authors are able to reassert the captivity narrative as tribally relevant and part-and-parcel to the history and culture of tribes that were/are located in the present-day South. Still functioning in the margins, modern Native writers are repossessing both Native and Southern stories, only entering into Southern discussions of identity as they see fit.

As "an interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the American South and their global connections," Southern Spaces seems to limit itself and its contributors to an established format. While it does not read as a codex, Anderson's article is merely an article (albeit a good one) in a digital form, not a digital project. The benefit to reading Anderson's article in a digital form is the clickable links that take you directly to tribal homepages or google.books. It seems he uses this format in lieu of footnotes that would accompany a printed journal article. The nature of some of the links, however, detracts from the caliber of his scholarship as, in the case of author LeAnne Howe, he links to the ephemeral and editable Native Wiki.

Anderson thoughtfully includes a couple maps to help the reader place his article within its geographic space. The first map of "Map of Major Indian Tribes in the 'South', circa 1750" is accurate, but quite misleading. Unless clicked, the map only reveals six of the ten tribes listed. Using a thumbnail would be a better option than cropping the image. Additionally, while the map is clickable to give the reader a larger image, the larger image is expandable only by a small margin. His second map on "Main Indian Removal Routes" presents a similar problem with the limited view, in that while a larger (complete) version of the map does pop up, it is not expandable. Here, an animated version of the map with the Removal routes and dates could be enormously beneficial to the reader and would add imension to the article as a digital project. The map shown reduces Removal to seemingly simultaneous routes, whereas all the tribes were Removed at different times. The Cherokee, for instance, remained in the South until several years after the Worcester v. Georgia Supreme Court case in 1832 until they were finally forced out in 1836-1839. Even still, some remained behind, later forming the Eastern Band of Cherokee. Anderson's representation of Removal could greatly benefit from a more interactive digital component as simple as flash with an accompanying description.

The article includes some extremely helpful visual aids of the illustrated covers and frontispieces to original captivity narratives. While the reader could benefit from seeing the entirety of the captivity narratives as primary sources, the images at least give an accurate feel for the narratives. In all likelihood, Anderson would not have been able to include this many images in a printed journal, making Southern Spaces a great place for him to present his work.

Southern Spaces is a peer-reviewed academic online journal. In their 'About' section, Southern Spaces says they, "intend [their] audience to be researchers and teachers, students in and out of classrooms, library patrons, and the general public." Judging by the caliber of sites that link to Southern Spaces, their intended audience is accurate. Internal links aside, no site links specifically to Anderson's article. However, several sites link to Southern Spaces generally, including Dr. William G. Thomas' blog. Other scholarly links include Auchi Polytechnic online library in Nigeria, The Institute for Southern Studies who published the journal Southern Exposure, the University of Mississippi Center for the Study of Southern Culture, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's digital library collection. Other sites that link to Southern Spaces are the 21st century home and living blog Southern Blueprint Blog, and the volunteer progressive southern journal Like The Dew. It can be understood from this that Anderson's work at least has the potential to be seen by a wide-ranging audience.

One of the perks to this type of forum is the rapidity with which work can be published. That expediency however, should not be compromised by poor editing. Poor editing in Anderson's piece does not reflect well for scholar or publisher. For example, in the fourth paragraph under the Introduction, he writes that Maddox "points up" instead of 'points out' an observation. In the first paragraph of his Introduction, he talks about several regions like the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and the Plains, but the 'Plains' region is not capitalized. While minor, these types of errors certainly need to be addressed by Southern Spaces.

Within the confines of what Southern Spaces offers its contributors, Anderson's article utilizes the space. While the maps embedded within his article have room for improvement, the visual aids Anderson is able to give the reader add dimension to his project that he could not have had in a print journal. Anderson's Southern Spaces article serves as a good launching point for a larger digital project.

Rebecca Wingo
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Reviewed: February 2011