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Title:Building bodies, (un)making empire: gender, sport, and colonialism in the United States, 1880-1930
Author(s):Eby, Beth
Director of Research:Burgos, Jr., Adrian
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Burgos, Jr., Adrian
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew; Oberdeck, Kathryn; Guiliano, Jennifer
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Indigenous History
Abstract:My dissertation project examines the intersecting relationship between indigeneity, sport, and gender at Haskell Institute. Now a Native American tribal college, Haskell Institute was originally built in the 1880s as part of the colonial boarding school movement, which sought to assimilate Native youth into white culture and undermine Indigenous communities. My project focuses specifically on Haskell’s athletic and physical education programs, and I argue that through participation in Haskell’s physical and athletic culture, Native students actively resisted assimilationist ideals and re-asserted their relationship to their own Indigenous communities. “Building Bodies, (Un)Making Empire” argues that sport and physical education were sites of decolonization and contestation between Native students and government employees at Haskell Institute, a federal off-reservation Indian boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas. Specifically, my evidence shows that Native women who attended Haskell participated in athletics as a way to define their Native identity while accommodating the demands of white womanhood and domesticity. Drawing on student memoirs, periodicals, and government letters and reports, I argue that sport constituted a terrain in which Native women at the school mobilized multiple femininities as a means to subvert and resist coercive colonial gender expectations. My approach to this topic brings to the forefront the preoccupation of disciplining Native bodies as part of the colonial political project. My project also engages with the rich histories of health and women’s bodies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which have largely overlooked the lived experiences of Native women. By bringing these bodies of scholarship into dialogue with each other, my dissertation shows how Native women navigated colonial expectations while continuing their own distinct histories of physical culture. Though largely unrecognized by colonial officials and sports professionals, Native nations have their own histories of games and sports, many of which were for or included women. Thus, when Haskell women were introduced to the physical education curriculum of Western sports, such as basketball, the concept of sport was not new, just different. My project interrogates and even emphasizes this difference, which demonstrates a complex relationship between Native cosmologies and Western sport. Rather than comparing the history of Haskell women’s engagement with sport to what their male counterparts were doing, I approach this particular history by engaging with ideologies surrounding the production of womanhood, both within and outside of Native communities. This not only allows for me to foreground Native women’s positionalities but shows how these women were active contributors to the emergence of women’s athletics. This history of sport and gender is not limited to Haskell Institute, but, has local and nation implications. As an historical project “Building Bodies, (Un)Making Empire” offers a unique and necessary contribution to the field of gender and public health studies by reconstructing the historical narrative surrounding the production of femininity and its relationship to U.S. empire.
Issue Date:2019-06-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Beth Eby
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08

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