Unsettling Fictions: Relationality as Decolonial Method in Native American and South African Literatures


  • Rebecca Macklin University of Leeds


Native American literature, South African literature, relationality, decolonization, Indigenous worldviews


This article sets out a rationale for the comparative study of Native American and South African literatures. Though there are numerous points of overlap between Native American and South African experiences of colonial subjugation and anti-colonial modes of resistance, the literatures produced in these contexts are seldom considered in the same frame. Arguing for the need to move beyond inherited disciplinary categories, this article demonstrates the necessity of interrogating categorizations of postcoloniality and indigeneity in specific instances. Further, it thinks through the grounds on which Native American and South African texts can be read together, by focusing on literary engagements with Native American and African onto-epistemologies. I register relationality as a point of connection in close readings of two novels: Almanac of the Dead (1991) by Laguna Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko and The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001) by the late South African author K. Sello Duiker. In these texts, I argue that the conceptualization of relationality between human and non-human others disrupts the separatist and hierarchical logic of coloniality. In undertaking this comparative work, this article contributes to a wider body of work being carried out by scholars across postcolonial and Indigenous studies, who seek to understand interconnected experiences of colonialism across diverse geographic, cultural, temporal and disciplinary spaces.

Author Biography

Rebecca Macklin, University of Leeds

Rebecca Macklin is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, where she completed a PhD focused on contemporary Native American and South African literature. In 2017-18, she was a Fulbright Visiting Researcher at Cornell University, affiliated with the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program. Her writing has appeared in publications including Native American and Indigenous Studies and Wasafiri, and she co-edited a special issue of Transmotion on ‘Native American Narratives in a Global Context’ (July 2019).






Part I: Constellations of Co-Resistance