Search In Books Blog
Book Details

From The University of Minnesota Press
Taxidermic Signs
Reconstructing Aboriginiality
By Pauline Wakeham
280 pp. / 20 b&w photos / 6 x 9 / 2008
Buy This Book
Related Interest

Taxidermy--the preservation, stuffing, and mounting of animal skins for lifelike display--as been traced back over four centuries to imperial Europe. In the intervening centuries it has

"Her compassionate and imaginative book offers us ways to be cautious, discreet, attentive and sensitive as some of us accompany First Nations as they resist, affirm and negotiate their separations and interdependencies. "

"Pauline Wakeham's Taxidermic Signs displays impressive depth, intelligence, and critical panache. Convincingly linking the colonial imaginary from the early twentieth-century with contemporary discourses, Taxidermic Signs arrives in the present as a devastating critique of ongoing racism across North American."
Canadian Literature

"Pauline Wakeham's work opens up new ways of thinking about colonial representation. Her fresh re-reading of the relation between the construction of the Aboriginal and the semiotics of taxidermy are exemplary for cultural studies. "
— Julia Emberley, author of Defamiliarizing the Aboriginal: Cultural Practices and Decolonization in Canada
remained inextricably linked to the politics of colonial conquest, materializing Western fantasies of mastery over the natural world and control of unruly, "wild" bodies.

In Taxidermic Signs, Pauline Wakeham decodes the practice of taxidermy as it was performed in North America from the late nineteenth century to the present, revealing its connection to ecological and racial discourses integral to the maintenance of colonial power. Moving beyond the literal practice of stuffing skins, Wakeham theorizes taxidermy as a sign system that conflates "animality" and "aboriginality" within colonial narratives of extinction. Through a series of provocative case studies, Wakeham demonstrates how the semiotics of taxidermy travel across diverse cultural texts. From the display of animal specimens and aboriginal artifacts in the Banff Park Museum, to the ethnographic films of Edward S. Curtis and Marius Barbeau, to the fetishization of aboriginal remains in the Kennewick Man and Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi repatriation cases, Wakeham argues that taxidermy's sign system reinvents mythologies of disappearing wildlife and vanishing Indians while simultaneously valorizing the power of Western technologies to memorialize these figures.

Seeking to destabilize the hierarchies of anthropocentric white supremacy, Wakeham presents an analysis of taxidermy as both a material practice and a symbolic system foundational to colonial authority in North America and still vital to the maintenance of power asymmetries today.

About Pauline Wakeham

Pauline Wakeham is assistant professor of English at the University of Western Ontario.