Final Public Oral Exam: Joshua Garrett-Davis

Thursday, May 7, 2020, 3:00 pm3:00 pm


Event Description

Resounding Voices: Native Americans and Sound Media, 1890–1970


Martha A. Sandweiss, Adviser
Wendy Warren
Emily Thompson
Philip Deloria, Harvard University


From the inception of modern sound media, Indigenous people in the United States have engaged with phonograph and radio technologies for a variety of purposes. From a late-nineteenth-century low point for Native populations and tribal sovereignty, Native peoples used these technologies alongside other strategies as they imagined and built modern futures over the first half of the twentieth century and beyond. This dissertation recounts the development of an Indigenous sonic modernity, suggesting that the media and expressive cultures of American Indians are crucial frequencies of modernity writ large. It draws from sound and print archives that Native performers produced with anthropologists, from rare commercial recordings, as well as from “Indians for Indians” productions held in both institutional and non-institutional archives.

This history begins in the 1890s with the first Native performers to record wax cylinders with ethnographers, arguing that one of their motivations was to produce a sound archive for future generations of their own communities. Across this same period, Native consumers participated in popular culture and became active listeners in contexts ranging from reservations and boarding schools to New Deal work camps and cities. American Indian performing artists made commercial records beginning in 1903, producing a little-recognized discography. And in the 1940s several previously unsung Native public intellectuals and entrepreneurs produced a host of innovative, community-rooted media: home-recording archives, Indian-owned record labels, and a remarkable intertribal radio show. These developments laid a foundation for the proliferation of tribal radio stations, tape-trading, commercial recording, and the returns of archival recordings that characterized the ensuing era of self-determination and “Red Power.”

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for a copy of the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Area of Interest
Cultural History
Digital History
History of Technology
Native American
Public History
Race & Ethnicity
Social History
19th Century
20th Century
American West
North America
Scholarly Series
Dissertation Defense