North American Uncanny: Shelley Niro’s Activist Photography
In this chapter, I investigate the shape of a North American uncanny through the photography of Shelley Niro, an artist who is an enrolled member of the Mohawk (Turtle Clan), Six Nations. In interpreting Niro’s oeuvre, I draw from her work in still photography noting that her films and photographs together express Niro’s vision of the cheapness of the culture created by capitalist colonization, the damaged and damaging force it still yields. The photographic image distills the nonmaterial space between act and impact, event and narrative. Niro’s work invokes the largely disavowed trauma at the heart of America’s double-tongued history of attempting to destroy Indigenous American culture and peoples while covering up that violence in discursive modes—religious, filmic, verbal, and pictorial—that claim European settlers’ right to the North American continent. My notion of a North American Uncanny differs from previous ideas of an Indigenous Uncanny as I trace ways that North America as it has been impacted by colonization becomes an uncanny space for Indigenous North Americans. I do not posit Indigenous peoples as uncanny. On the contrary, I emphasize how Shelley Niro sees the world around her as uncanny, a reversal of perspective.