Signs at odds?
the semiotics of law, legitimacy, and authenticity in tribal contexts
Tribal sovereignty in the United States is consolidated and enacted in a plethora of physical spaces, within which tribes must establish both legitimacy and legality for their governance. In tension with this need, at times, is the need to simultaneously establish authenticity of tribal practices, perceptions of which may rest in an unreflecting view of these practices as premodern, prelegal, and historical – rather than mobile, adaptable, and contemporary engagements with contemporary life. However, the supposed binaries of modernity and tradition are much more complexly constructed and understood by tribal practitioners, than they have been by non-Indian observers. This essay examines the creative ways that tribal buildings and signs reflect and resolve the tensions perceived between modernity and indigeneity. Tribal semiotic practices construct legitimacy in ways that creatively avoid the false dichotomy between authenticity and modernity, and deploy multiple visual components to reassure a number of constituencies of their authentic claims to western legality and legitimacy, as well as distinctive tribal authority.
Cramer, R. (2014)., Signs at odds?: the semiotics of law, legitimacy, and authenticity in tribal contexts, in A. Wagner & R. K. Sherwin (eds.), Law, culture and visual studies, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 471-496.
This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.