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“'Communitism' in Aktion: Indigene Gemeinschaft, dekolonialer Aktivismus und Videospiel-Narrativ in Kisima Ingitchuna (Never Alone)” trans. Andreas Fliedner

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Published in Festl, M. G. & Schweighauser, P. Literatur und Politische Philosophie. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag. 2018, p. 257-83
Abstract In "That The People Might Live" (1997), Cherokee scholar Jace Weaver coins the neologism “communitism,” which brings together the concepts of community and activism in order to evaluate what Weaver calls “the proactive commitment to Native community” (xiii) present in varying degrees in Native American written literatures. Communitism is, therefore, both an analytical and an evaluative term that engages the dynamic relationship between indigenous writers and communities. This dynamic encompasses both the emergence of indigenous writers from specific communities, on the one hand and, on the other, the power of indigenous writings to shape and influence Native identities and communities, in particular by participating in “the healing of the grief and sense of exile felt by Native communities and the pained individuals in them” (xiii). Among the topics highlighted for analysis within the context of communitism are literary representations of specific communities and the impact on communities of those representations but, above all, the politics of healing traumatic histories of colonization – or decolonization – through activist literature. While Jace Weaver addresses these topics through written literatures, communitism applies just as powerfully to the emergent field of indigenous digital media where the representation of indigenous community through virtual narrative strategies draws on the long traditions of Native orature and oral storytelling to work towards decolonization and a healing revalidation of tribal worldviews and community values. In this chapter, I use Weaver's communitist methodology to analyze the decolonizing work performed by the highly-successful Iñupiat video game, "Kisima Ingitchuna" ("Never Alone"), developed by Upper One Games, a for-profit division of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (Alaska Native) and released by E-Line Media in 2014. The decolonizing objectives of the game are very clear: it seeks to preserve and disseminate Iñupiat language, storytelling, and ways of knowing through interactive game-play that is directed by the principles of Iñupiat traditional knowledge. The game is clearly oriented towards Iñupiat youth but the structure of the game narrative encourages non-indigenous players also to adopt an Iñupiat subject position for the duration of the game-play, with implications for the decolonizing politics of this and other contemporary indigenous video-games. The analytical question thus arises: how, precisely, can an interactive digital narrative such as a video game create the conditions for political activism? I approach this question using the MDA (mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics) framework, proposed by Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek (2001), to analyze the ways in which the mechanics of the game work to impart such epistemological principles as cooperation, respect for environment, and intergenerational wisdom. "Never Alone" represents, within the diegetic world of the game, a specific indigenous community in all its complexity and specificity. Furthermore, the game reveals a capacity not only to reflect but to shape actively the player's response as a contribution towards the decolonization of the Iñupiat community. Using narrative strategies designed to promote player empathy with the Iñupiat cultural world – strategies that are enforced by the determinants of game-play (the rules of the game) created by the game mechanics – a covert level of meaning is created. This covert narrative tells a story of violent colonization and community trauma but also communicates the resilience and continuance of Iñupiat people, their culture, and community.
Keywords Video-gamesDigital mediaDigital narrativeIñupiat cultureHistorical traumaDecolonizationIñupiat traditional knowledge"Kisima Ingitchuna""Never Alone"
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ISBN: 978-3-7705-6149-0
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MADSEN, Deborah Lea. “'Communitism' in Aktion: Indigene Gemeinschaft, dekolonialer Aktivismus und Videospiel-Narrativ in Kisima Ingitchuna (Never Alone)” trans. Andreas Fliedner. In: Festl, M. G. & Schweighauser, P. (Ed.). Literatur und Politische Philosophie. Paderborn : Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2018. p. 257-83. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:109144

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Deposited on : 2018-10-15

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