Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
University of California / Davis
Performing Unangax̂ Subsistence Cosmologies: Native North Pacific Perspectives on Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice

The worldviews of Unangax̂, Alaska Native Peoples of the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands, are shaped by constellations of place-based relationships amongst volcanic islands of the North Pacific. Unangax̂ survivance depends on lifeways rooted in subsistence practices -- including cyclical preparing, hunting, gathering, and sharing -- shaped by patterns of weather and specific cultural protocols. These processes remain widely disconnected from global capitalist structures of commoditized food production. Subsistence is vital for rural and remote Unangax̂ villages whose limited infrastructure, namely a lack of reliable internet access and exorbitant travel and shipping costs, render commodity foods scarce or unaffordable. My project critically engages Unangax̂ subsistence cosmologies, or worldviews, and sustainability protocols as a means to expand the scope of ongoing discussions in Native American and Indigenous studies with particular attention to food sovereignty and environmental justice, issues of urgent global significance. Unangax̂ cosmologies and sustainability protocols govern how Unangax̂ live in reciprocity, stewardship, and multi-sensorial awareness with the environmental, human, and more-than-human relatives. Forwarding what I call “subsistence processes” (methods, theories, and praxes), my research centers community-based participatory methods to more fully textualize two interrelated processes. First, my in-depth analyses of textual and embodied archives demonstrate how Unangax̂ Knowledges are/as iterative, or produced through everyday practices such as oral (hx)stories and performances. Second, my work considers how Unangax̂ Knowledges are/as (re)iterative, or reproduced through practices and archives such as storytelling and multi-sensory media and performances. I will engage in a series of community-led research-creation activities, which will be collaboratively framed and could include, but are not limited to, documenting conversations about subsistence processes, co-creating new multimedia materials, and relating and building kinship networks as gift economies. A purposefully dense approach will more fully articulate how Unangax̂ subsistence processes contribute new perspectives on and solutions for mitigating global food insecurity and climate change crises.