Sovereign Screens


Sovereign Screens

Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast

Kristin L. Dowell

296 pages
21 photographs, 2 illustrations, 1 map


December 2013


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eBook (EPUB)

April 2020


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April 2017


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eBook (PDF)

December 2013


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About the Book

While Indigenous media have gained increasing prominence around the world, the vibrant Aboriginal media world on the Canadian West Coast has received little scholarly attention. As the first ethnography of the Aboriginal media community in Vancouver, Sovereign Screens reveals the various social forces shaping Aboriginal media production including community media organizations and avant-garde art centers, as well as the national spaces of cultural policy and media institutions.

Kristin L. Dowell uses the concept of visual sovereignty to examine the practices, forms, and meanings through which Aboriginal filmmakers tell their individual stories and those of their Aboriginal nations and the intertribal urban communities in which they work. She explores the ongoing debates within the community about what constitutes Aboriginal media, how this work intervenes in the national Canadian mediascape, and how filmmakers use technology in a wide range of genres—including experimental media—to recuperate cultural traditions and reimagine Aboriginal kinship and sociality.  Analyzing the interactive relations between this social community and the media forms it produces, Sovereign Screens offers new insights into the on-screen and off-screen impacts of Aboriginal media. 

Author Bio

Kristin L. Dowell is an associate professor of anthropology at Florida State University. She is a visual anthropologist who has worked as a film curator at several Native film festivals. Her articles have appeared in the journals American Anthropologist and Transformations and in edited volumes, including Native Art of the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas, winner of the 2015 Canada Prize in the Humanities.


“Nowhere is Aboriginal media more active, more vibrant, and more significant than in Canada. . . . The efforts of small, underfunded, ambitious, and creative groups of filmmakers in Vancouver make for an engaging story. . . . This is a clear, useful, and well-researched book.”—Michael Evans, author of Fast Runner: Filming the Legend of Atanarjuat


"This important contribution to media and indigenous studies is destined to become required reading in these areas."—C. R. King, Choice

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Vancouver's Aboriginal Media World
1. The Indigenous Media Arts Group
2. Canadian Cultural Policy and Aboriginal Media
3. Aboriginal Diversity On-Screen
4. Building Community Off-Screen
5. Cultural Protocol in Aboriginal Media
6. Visual Sovereignty in Aboriginal Experimental Media
Appendix: Filmmakers and Films

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