“Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory” by Qwo-Li Driskill— Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Driskill, Qwo-Li. “Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory”, University of Arizona Press, 2016.

Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Amos Lassen

In the Cherokee language “Asegi udanto” refers to people who do not fit into men’s and women’s roles or who mix men’s and women’s roles. The word “Asegi” is translated as “strange” and is also used by some Cherokees as a term similar to “queer.”

In “Asegi Stories”, author Qwo-Li Driskill give us a way to reread Cherokee history in order to listen for those stories that was considered “strange” by the colonial heterosexual patriarchy.

I understand that this is first full-length that develops a tribally specific indigenous queer or Two-Spirit critique. It examines gender and sexuality in Cherokee cultural memory and shows how they shape the present, and how they can influence the future.

Looking at activist, artistic, and intellectual genealogies (referred to as “dissent lines” by Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith), Driskill enmeshes Cherokee and other indigenous traditions including “women of color feminisms, grassroots activisms, queer and trans studies and politics, rhetoric, Native studies, and decolonial politics”. These are the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the stories that are derived from drawings, oral histories and archival documents and are used to articulate Cherokee-centered Two-Spirit critiques. In doing so Driskill is able to contribute to the larger intertribal movements for social justice.

This is both corrective and selective history as well as a memoir and a critique. Driskill argues that existing categories and genre divisions do not serve Native/Aboriginal/Two Spirit Studies.

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