"alterNature" in Drew Hayden Taylor’s The Berlin Blues. Construction and De(con)struction of Contested Spaces

Publikation: Beiträge in SammelwerkenAufsätze in SammelwerkenForschung


  • Maryann Henck
In the tourism industry, the image of Natives and their relationship to Mother Earth has been romanticized, exoticized, and commodified for the tourist gaze of its primary consumers – white North Americans and Europeans. The Germans, in particular, exhibit an unrivalled fascination with the “red” agenda of “Indianthusiasm” as well as the “green” agenda of environmental awareness and sustainability. In The Berlin Blues (2007), Anishnawbe playwright Drew Hayden Taylor capitalizes on both of these interests by allowing two overly efficient German developers to descend upon the Otter Lake reserve and present their not so modest proposal for the Native theme park OjibwayWorld. This worst practice example of “The Curator’s Exhibitionism” (Conquergood) provides thought-provoking insights about the dangers of cultural and ecological imperialism in the contested space of Native identity – an identity intricately intertwined with both tradition and land.

My proposal will address the enactment of nature in Indigenous performance by fusing discourses of Otherness in performance studies, tourism, and Conquergood’s framework, “Moral Mapping of Performative Stances Towards the Other,” with postcolonial and ecocritical approaches. Special focus will be placed on the “polymorphously activist tendency” of contemporary third-wave ecocriticism (Slovic), which focuses on using literature as a medium for increasing ethical awareness, illustrating sustainable practices, and engendering political commitment. Not only will I focus on (re)presented interactions between “hosts” and “guests” but also on the performative aspect of language and conventions of discourse that unearth social, political, economic, and environmental injustices. The play’s caveat, cleverly couched in comic tones, demonstrates how the commodification and ensuing exploitation of cultural as well as ecological spaces can ultimately lead to the creation of a hybridized “alterNature,” e.g. stereotype-perpetuating performances (Dances With Wolves – The Musical) and the re-architecturing of the environment (gigantic seagull-killing laser dreamcatcher, imported buffalo). Especially the play’s finale offers an ideal springboard for future debates about how inauthentic “alterNature” could be transformed into a more authentic “alterNative” space that simultaneously preserves Native cultural traditions and environmental values as well as reconciles them with economic necessity.
TitelEnacting Nature : Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance
HerausgeberBirgit Däwes, Marc Maufort
Anzahl der Seiten20
VerlagPeter Lang Verlag
ISBN (Print)978-2-87574-146-2
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2014