Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of California / Davis

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Native American Studies, University of California / Davis
Sheep Is Life and Diné Decolonization: Re-membering the Spanish and Mexican Arrivals to Navajoland

Grounded within the Diné (Navajo) epistemology of Sheep Is Life and with traditional sheep butchering as an analytical framework, this dissertation aims to provide unique insights to Diné relationships with sheep, the dialogue between sheep butchering and decolonization, as well as Diné perspectives of the Spanish and Mexican arrivals to the southwest. Utilizing Indigenous methodologies and Diné research methods I challenge research of sheep as a mere economic/ecological subject, studies of Diné pastoralism as a relationship of domination, and ultimately, scholarships that treats sheep as a foreign object introduced to Diné alongside Spanish colonialisms. As much as this is an ethnographic study of the co-constituted identities between sheep and Diné, my project also argues that Diné practices of sheep care and sheep butchery are complex responses to Western ways of knowing as well as critiques of the Western monopoly on knowledge production. My hypothesis suggests that maintaining sheep as the axis of this project will allow for previously marginalized or ignored Native intellectualism of the Spanish and Mexican arrivals to emerge. Although traditional butchering techniques vary throughout Navajoland,the simultaneous dismembering/re-membering process allow for dialogue between these variations and with decolonizing practices. While butchering requires the dismembering of sheep, it demonstrates how sheep re-member Diné by reinforcing kinship, promoting dialogue, and re-purposing the dismembered sheep according to Diné ways of sensing the world. Therefore, much as the dismembered parts of sheep are used rather than discarded, I will address how the butchering of sheep allows for the dissolution and reconfiguration of Western knowledges and previous academic research in ways that heal Diné experiences with colonialism starting with the Spanish arrivals continuing until the contemporary.