Michelle Raheja

Michelle Raheja

Native American Studies Professor to Research Sami Filmmaking

As part of research for her new book, Michelle H. Raheja, an associate professor of English and Native American studies scholar at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), will immerse herself in the visual culture of one of the largest indigenous groups in Europe.

Enabling her to do this is the Fullbright fellowship, funded by the U.S. government and designed to increase understanding between the United States and other countries.

Raheja will study Sami filmmakers who have recently been expressing their views on assimilation through documentaries, hip hop videos and narrative films using innovative Sami aesthetics. Her research will be incorporated into her new book project, tentatively titled Visualizing Pedagogy: Transnational Indigenous Media and Representations of Education. It will examine indigenous media in northern Europe, North America and Australia.

The Sami live in an arctic region encompassing parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

In a UCR press release Raheja noted how indigenous children have been forced since the 17th century to attend boarding or residential schools in the hopes of assimilating them into the dominant culture.

“This long and often tragic history has been documented in the past 20 years by an impressive number of scholarly monographs, essays, films, novels, and plays,” she explained in the release. “However, there have been no book-length projects on the interaction between contemporary visual culture production and the historical experiences of boarding schools to date. Moreover, there have been no full-length book projects in English that focus on Sami filmmaking traditions despite the explosion of Sami cinema since 2000 and its importance to transnational indigenous discourses.”

Her book Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film (University of Nebraska Press, 2011), is a study of the shaping of the perception of Native Americans in Hollywood since the era of silent films.

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