Profile Post — Adrienne Keene
I spent a great deal of time deciding which blogger to select for this post. There are very few bloggers who deal in topics of Native Americans in higher education, or that try to discuss appropriation and colonization in an approachable, yet academic setting.
Eventually I decided upon Adrienne Keene, a Native American academic, writer, and activist. She is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and currently serves as an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University.
As a Native American pursuing a degree in higher education, I greatly appreciate the emic perspective that Keene provides throughout her work, which often takes a whitty approach to address more serious issues. Her Native American culture, coupled with an education from Stanford in her undergraduate and Harvard in her doctoral studies, produces a highly effective combination. Keene utilizes her accomplished academic background to develop new and creative ways of addressing her subject matter, while drawing critical parallels to her own life as well as others’ lives.
Keene’s work serves to educate both the Native American/Indigenous community as well as the non-indigenous community throughout the world. Her writing is done for the betterment of others rather than personal gain and very little information on herself is present on her website at all. One can find her work at nativeappropriations.com
Keene’s blogs cover a wide breadth of topics but all address, whether directly or indirectly, the struggle of the American Indian in today’s society.
Often taking a highly-progressive or even controversial stance, Keene’s work addresses topics that are seemingly less suspect in comparison with the usual talking points i.e. Standing Rock, clean water, etc.. Her post, Where are the Natives in Hamilton?, addresses the lack of indigenous represenation in the critically acclaimed and Tony award-winning musical, Hamilton.
Keene briefly introduces her critique before quickly qualifying the other side — and herself in a way — by stating her adoration for the musical. This is a distinct contradiction to her typical writing style which tends to continue driving her point after she has stated it. Her posts, which typically get published a few times a month until recently, explore topics with pointed intentionality.
Utilizing her cultural background as a tool for social criticism, Keene illuminates various manifestions of appropriation and commodification with insider’s lens, as present in her post Valentino didn’t learn anything. This post serves a duel purpose of both providing commentary on commodified clothing as well as reference towards her previous work.
Keene states “I literally have no more words to talk about the ways these warbonnets have been commodified, separated from the cultures from which they come, and appropriated in advertising, costuming, whatever”.
This side of Keene lays seemingly dormant in her Hamilton post as she capitalizes on a historical approach. Citing sources such as the Declaration of Independence, she unintentionally reveals the methodical research required in so many of her writings.
Keene’s careful research grants her audience a more enjoyable read by breaking down the details in easily digestible portions. Rather than focus on her own heritage, she criticizes Hamilton by citing the Declaration of Independence, the Consitution, and even the Continental Congress.
Keene goes on to acknowledge her apprehension in writing criticisms of such a powerful work. Particularly, one that has served to represent people of color throughout the nation.
Keene’s acknowledgment adds a human component to her work that is rarely expressed in such an effective way. Her work is both insightful and pertinent to several generations of readers. Nearly all of the sixteen comments left on the Hamilton blog post are highly positive, some even offering advicie for Keene regarding primary historical sources.
Although it is not in reference to a blog post, I believe it is also worth noting that Keene has established a Native-only petition to change the name of the Washington Redski*ns. Despite asking only Native Americans to participate, the petition had well over 6000 signatures at the time of this post.
Adrienne Keene is a talented and driven Native American rights activist both in writing and in spirit.
Jacob Daniel Broussard