Otis College of Art and Design

Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mario A. Caro



Contemporary Indigenous Art (2 Credits)

Fall 2004

Thursday, 1:00pm – 3:00pm, Rm. 301B


LAS phone number (310) 665-6920

Liberal Arts and Sciences, Room 303

e-mail: cia@visualcultures.net

Office Hours: By Appointment


Course description:


This course is an analysis of contemporary aesthetic approaches employed by native artists that address issues affecting native nations. Many of these issues—such as sovereignty, cultural preservation, land reclamation, globalization—are political issues that are constantly negotiated from indigenous world views, which are often incommensurable with Western ideologies. Native perspectives find expression through a variety of aesthetic strategies—traditional, modernist, post-modernist—and media—objective, performative, literary, oral, traditional, and non-traditional. An examination of various native perspectives will allow us to reconsider notions of identity (communal, individual, trans-generational, religious, sexual, national, essentialist, etc.) that, in turn, will lead to a re-examination of Western representational strategies and genres, such as landscape, self-portraiture, and documentary.

Course learning outcomes: 

The critical analysis of the various discourses on indigenous art will require that you develop a variety of skills. The successfully completion of this course will enhance your ability to critically identify and develop your own research topic; improve your competence to synthesize your research by writing a clear thesis; and develop your verbal, written, and visual communication skills for presenting your scholarship.

Fall 2004 Holidays:    Monday, September 6             Labor Day

                                    Tuesday, November 2             Election Day

                                    Thanksgiving Break                November 24-November 28


Other relevant dates:

Tuesday, August 31                Last day to add a class

Tuesday, September 7             Last day to drop a class

Friday, October 29                  Last day to withdraw from a class

Prerequisites: None

Required texts:   Course packet available at bookstore and student selected readings.

Course requirements:

Otis Attendance policy:  Attendance at all classes is mandatory and you are responsible for all lecture material.  Three absences within the semester constitute automatic failure.  Students who repeatedly arrive late and or leave early will be counted tardy.  Three tardies equals one absence.  Missing 45 minutes of class is considered being absent.

Late paper/work policy: No late assignment will be accepted. All assignments are to be submitted at the beginning of class on the date due.

Requirements for Assignments:



There are three types of assignments that will allow me to evaluate your progress in this course: 1) research assignment 2) a term essay supported by your research (5-10 pages) and 3) a class presentation of your research project.


Research Assignment



This assignment will allow you to analyze the ways in which texts refer to and depend on each other. Seeing how texts contextualize other texts will assist you in writing your term paper, which will be aided by this research.



On alternate weeks (see schedule below for exact dates,) you will supplement your weekly reading with at least one article of your own choosing. Make a copy for your portfolio and submit a one to two-page typewritten explanation of how your text is connected to the assigned readings.


Dates Due:

The response paper is due every other week. Please see schedule below for exact dates.


Term Essay



The writing of this essay is an exercise that will enhance your ability to synthesize researched information into a coherent argument.



You will develop a thesis, a stated position you will take on a particular issue covered in the class, which you will defend using the texts from your research assignment. You will develop your own thesis and are encouraged to pursue a topic that is meaningful to you while also relating to the wide scope of issues covered by the course. The assignment will be divided into two sections: 1) a thesis statement and annotated bibliography and 2) a final draft.


Dates Due:


The thesis statement and annotated bibliography are due as part of your portfolio at midterm week, October 7th.


Team Presentation



The team presentation is meant to improve your ability to collaborate in presenting your work with others. It will require that you develop a format in which to present your work in a way that will complement that of the other team members. It will challenge your ability to communicate, not only within your group but as a group.



The class will be divided into four teams of five students. Each team will have an hour to present their projects. The format of your collaboration is completely up to the group, as long as the group is able to represent an aspect of each of its members’ work in an hour-long presentation. Please note that this will require careful preparation that takes into account your time limitation and technical requirements. It is imperative that you rehearse this as a team and that you make advance reservations for the equipment you’ll need.




Your portfolios are meant to neatly organize your assignments in a binder, which is submitted for review during midterm week (October 7th) and again during our final meeting on December 9th. All written work should by typed and double-spaced.

Otis Grade Scale

A                     4.0

A-                    3.7

B+                   3.3

B                     3.0

B-                    2.7

C+                   2.3

C                     2.0

C-                    1.7

D                     1.0

F                      0.0


Grading Breakdown:


Weekly Participation               40


Research                      25

Team Presentation       15

Term Essay                  20

Grading Criteria:

Weekly Participation:

This will be graded as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Satisfactory participation will be awarded if you demonstrate that you have carefully read all the assignments and are prepared to critically engage in a discussion regarding the form and content of the readings.

Research Assignment:

This will also be graded as being either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. To obtain a satisfactory grade you must have selected a supplemental reading that is pertinent to the content of the course and submitted a response paper that explains the relevance.

Team Presentation:

This assignment will be quantitatively evaluated. A successful presentation, which is worth 15 percent of your grace, will be awarded 5 percentage points for each of the following three criteria: 1) individual preparation—the preparation of your individual research project 2) integration—your ability to integrate the thesis of your project with those of your teammates and 3) collaborative presentation—your role in planning the coordination of the group presentation.

Term Paper:

A = Excellent.  Your paper will be turned in on time and :

Have a strong thesis (main point) that is clearly supported by an organized paper.

Provide excellent examples to support your thesis.

Show thorough comprehension of the ideas presented.

Have strong analyses of material and arguments.

Demonstrate your ability to go beyond ideas presented in class and in the reading.

Be written clearly, with virtually no errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or usage.

Include a bibliography and all necessary citations if required by the assignment.


B = Very Good.  Your paper will be turned in on time and:

Have a good thesis that is supported by a mostly organized paper.

Provide good examples to support your ideas.

Show thorough comprehension of the ideas presented.

Analyze material and arguments.

Be written clearly, with few errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or usage.

Include a bibliography and all necessary citations  if required by the assignment.


C = Good/Average.  Your paper will:

Have a thesis, perhaps flawed or one that is incompletely supported by the paper.

Show a few flaws in organization.

Provide average examples to support your thesis.

Show minor limitations to comprehension of the ideas presented.

Analyze, with minor errors, material and arguments.

Be written clearly, with some errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or usage.

Include a bibliography and all necessary citations if required by the assignment.


D = Below average, barely passing.  Your paper will have one or more major problems:

A weak thesis, or one that is incompletely supported by the paper.

Incomplete or weak organization or some lack of coherence. 

Week or poorly used examples.

Show only basic comprehension of the ideas presented.

Analyze, partially or with some errors, material and arguments.

Be compromised by too many errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or usage.

Lacks a bibliography and complete citations if required by the assignment.


F = Failing.  Your paper will receive an F if it meets ANY of the criteria below:

Does not meet the minimum requirements for a D.

Shows evidence of plagiarism.

Does not fulfill the requirements of the assignment.

Is obviously a first draft

Lacks a bibliography and complete citations if required by the assignment.


Department Plagiarism Statement: Plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common knowledge) material without acknowledging the source. Two types of plagiarism are: deliberately submitting someone else’s work (including copying directly from a source without documentation, having someone else write a paper, cutting and pasting from the internet), and carelessly or inadequately citing. A student who plagiarizes at minimum will fail the assignment; beyond that plagiarized papers and exams will result in a failure for the course.  All students who plagiarize will be reported to the Chair of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the violation will be filed in the department.  Repeated or serious violations can result in not only failure for the class but referral to the Student Conduct Committee that has the option of dismissal or suspension from the college).

Proper citations in MLA style and a bibliography must accompany all papers.  You can find this in The College Writer’s Reference.  You can also find citation information through the Library website.

Course Schedule


Weekly Schedule








Introduction to Course





Fisher, Jean. “Unsettled Accounts of Indians and Others.” In The Myth of Primitivism. Ed. Susan Hiller. London and New York: Routledge, 1991, 292-313.


Te Awekotuku, Ngahuia. “More than Skin Deep: Ta Moko Today.” In Claiming the Stones/Naming the Bones: Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethnic Identity. Ed. Elazar Barkan and Ronald Bush. Los Angeles: Getty Publication, 2002, 243-254.


Find supplemental reading and submit a written response paper.


Make copy of article for your portfolio.





Dyer, Richard, “The Matter of Whiteness.” In White. New York and London: Routledge, 1997, 1-40.


Churchill, Ward. “The Crucible of American Indian Identity.” In Contemporary Native American Cultural Issues. Ed. Duane Champagne. Walnut Creek, California: AltaMira Press, 1999, 39-67.


Durham, Jimmie. “Cowboys and . . .” In The Third Text Reader on Art, Culture and Theory. Ed. Rasheed Araeen, Sean Cubitt, and Ziauddin Sardar. London and New York: Continuum, 2002, 101-116







Trask, Haunani-Kay. “Settlers of Color and ‘Immigrant’ Hegemony: ‘Locals’ in Hawai‘i.” Amerasia Journal 26:2 (2000):1-24.


Kosasa, Karen K. “Thefts of Space and Culture: Kimo Cashman’s Kapu Series.” History of Photography. 25:3 (Autumn, 2001): 279-287.


Find supplemental reading and submit a written response paper.


Make copy of article for your portfolio.










Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. “Responding to the Imperatives of an Indigenous Agenda: A Case Study of Maori.” In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London and New York: Zed Books, 1999, 163-182.


Deloria, Vine, Jr. “Philosophy and the Tribal Peoples.” In American Indian Thought: Philosophical Essays. Ed. Anne Waters. Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2004, 3-11.


Clark, Herman Pi‘ikea. “Ka Maka Hou Hawaii: The New Face of the Hawaiian Nation.” Third Text 17:3 (2003): 273-279.


Find supplemental reading and submit a written response paper.


Make copy of article for your portfolio.





Abbott, Lawrence, ed. “Nora Naranjo-Morse.” In I Stand in the Center of the Good: Interviews with Contemporary Native American Artists. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994, 197-208


Langton, Marcia. “Dreaming Art.” In Complex Entanglements: Art, Globalisation and Cultural Difference. Ed. Nikos Papastergiadis. London: Rivers Oram Press, 2003, 42-56.


Submit portfolio for midterm review. They should contain:


  • 3 articles
  • 3 corresponding response papers
  • thesis statement for term paper
  • annotated bibliography with 12 entries




Dubin, Margaret. “Museums and the Politics of Cultural Authority.” In Native America Collected: The Culture of an Art World. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001, 83-99.



Sweeney, J. Gray.  “Racism, Nationalism, and Nostalgia.” In Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History. Ed. Kimberly N. Pinder. New York: Routledge, 2002, 155-168.


McMaster, Gerald. “Creating Spaces.” In Thinking About Exhibitions. Eds. Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson and Sandy Nairne.  New York: Routledge, 1996, 191-200.







Tsinhnahjinnie, Hulleah. “When is a Photograph Worth a Thousand Words?” In Native Nations: Journey’s in American Photography.  Ed. Jane Alison. London: Barbican Art Gallery, 1999, 40-55.


Harlan, Theresa. “Adjusting the Focus for an Indigenous Presence.” In Over Exposed: Essays on Contemporary Photography. Ed. Carol Squiers. New York: The New Press, 1999, 134-152.


Pinney, Christopher. “The Parallel Histories of Anthropology and Photography.” In Anthropology and Photography: 1860-1920. Ed. Elizabeth Edwards. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992, 74-95.


Find supplemental reading and submit a written response paper.


Make copy of article for your portfolio.






Halper, Vicki. “James Lavadour Landscapes.” In James Lavadour Landscapes. Exhibition catalogue. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001, 11-24.

               [ISBN 0295981768]


Silko, Leslie Marmon. “The People and the Land are Inseparable.” In Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, 85-95.

                [ISBN 0684811537]







Churchill, Ward. “Fantasies of the Master Race: The Cinematic Colonization of American Indians.” In Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema and the Colonization of Native Americans. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1998, 167-224.



Todd, Loretta. “What More Do They Want?” In Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives. Ed. Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin. Vancouver: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1992, 71-79.


Find supplemental reading and submit a written response paper.


Make copy of article for your portfolio.






Houle, Robert. “The Spiritual Legacy of the Ancient Ones.” In Land, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada. Ed. Diana Nemiroff. Ottowa: National Gallery of Canada, 1992, 44-73.


Smith, Paul Chaat. “The Meaning of Life.” In Reservation X: The Power of Place in Aboriginal Contemporary Art. Exhibition catalogue. Ed. Gerald McMaster. Seattle : University of Washington Press, 1998, 31-40.


First Draft





McLean, Ian, “On the Edge of Change? Art, Globalisation and Cultural Difference,” Third Text 18:3 (2004): 293-304.


Fisher, Jean. “Towards a Metaethic of Shit.” In  In Complex Entanglements: Art, Globalisation and Cultural Difference. Ed. Nikos Papastergiadis. London: Rivers Oram Press, 2003, 69-84.








1:00 Group 1

2:00 Group 2







1:00 Group 3

2:00 Group 4


Final portfolio submission:

It should be well-organized and include:


  • 6 articles
  • 6 corresponding response papers
  • Final draft of your term paper with bibliography.
  • Notes or other materials relevant to your final presentation.