Exploring indigenous masculinity

Queen’s professor follows up book on residential schools with new collection titled Masculindians

A conversation on indigenous masculinity.
A conversation on indigenous masculinity.

As an undergrad, McKegney, a professor in the department of English, didn’t encounter a lot of indigenous literature. As a professor, he said he hopes to enrich his students with the stories he discovered later.

“I was really intrigued by a number of texts by indigenous authors that were really grappling with representations of male-identified characters and their relationships between and among male-identified characters,” McKegney said.

But there were some challenges in pursuing this area of research.

“My initial impulse was to turn to what I imagined was the body of indigenous masculinity theory, and there simply wasn’t much in the way of that study,” McKegney said.

Soon after recognizing this gap, McKegney started on his new book, Masculindians. The book’s release coincides with the first year that Indigenous Studies is offered as a minor at Queen’s.

Masculindians: Conversations About Indigenous Manhood is a collection of conversations on indigenous masculinity. Between October 2010 and May 2013, McKegney conducted interviews with figures in the indigenous community, including artists, activists, critics and elders.

“As a settler scholar, I am non-indigenous,” he said. “I thought one of the ways I could contribute to that would be in having conversations with writers and activists and theorists and Elders and community members on male-specific issues and masculinity.”

McKegney said that it’s not a book about himself or his experiences.

“This is a collection of really powerful voices,” he said. “It’s actually conversation with some of the most important thinkers from indigenous communities today.”

The title Masculindians, according to McKegney, was chosen to combine concepts of masculinity and indigeneity.

“It questions what are the other ways of inhabiting a male-identified identity that is empowered yet doesn’t simply conform to the stereotypes that are constructed from the outside,” he said.

The cover art for Masculindians displays this visually through artist Dana Claxton’s piece “Daddy’s Gotta New Ride” from her collection Mustang Suite.

It features an indigenous man dressed in face paint and a business suit, positioned in front of a Mustang convertible.

“Claxton is playing with all these stereotypes in order to force people to confront what they imagine masculinity to mean in an indigenous context,” he said.

McKegney, whose last book was 2007’s Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community After Residential School, said he’s hopeful it will lead to more changes in the future.

Queen’s University sits on Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe land, and McKegney feels this requires us, as an institution, to ask questions of ourselves.

“I think there is an institutional will to pursue those questions and I’m really excited about the next few years,” he said.

The Kingston leg of the Masculindians: Conversations about Indigenous Manhood book tour will take place at Novel Idea on March 20 at 7:00 p.m., with special appearances by Janice Hill Kanonhsyonni and Daniel David Moses.

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