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No Deal!

Indigenous Arts and the Politics of Possession

Edited by Tressa Berman

No Deal! encompasses a diverse group of artists, curators, art historians, and anthropologists from Australia and North America in order to investigate social relations of possession through the artifacts and motifs of Indigenous expressive culture. The contributors speak from the standpoints of Indigenous systems of knowledge as well as from western epistemologies and their institutions, interrogating what it means to “own culture.” The case studies in this volume contribute to notions of “ownership” and “possession” through the lens of art and its associated rights to production, circulation, performance, and representation.

Cover image: Jennifer Herd, No Deal!, 2004. Courtesy of the artist.

2012. 282 pp., 15 figures, 18 color plates, 1 table, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Tressa Berman, Jennifer Biddle, Marie Bouchard, Marco Centin, Suzanne Newman Fricke, Kathy M’Closkey, Lea S. McChesney, Eric Michaels, Nancy Marie Mithlo, Fred Myers, Nancy J. Parezo

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“A hugely useful resource for anyone interested in Indigenous art, culture, and questions of cultural appropriation and ownership, with some of the leaders in their fields providing valuable and thought-provoking cross-disciplinary perspectives.”
—Terri Janke, Terri Janke and Company Pty Ltd, Intellectual Property Lawyers, Australia

“Over the last fifty years, Indigenous art movements in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and elsewhere have been vital and potent in unexpected ways. Fresh, up-to-date, engaging, and engaged, No Deal! provides the best guide I have read to the politics of native art.”
—Nicholas Thomas, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge

“Tressa Berman has brought together new voices to make sense of the often complicated art world that has historically marginalized non-Western voices. Though Indigenous peoples in North America and Australia continue to live under the colonial weight of the West, there is a growing discourse that articulates these weighty circumstances that Berman and the contributors to this volume take charge in formulating and offer new strategies for engaging.”
—Gerald McMaster, Independent Scholar, USA and Adjunct Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario

“No Deal! is a cross-disciplinary essay collection, written by artists, museum curators, anthropologists, and art historians from Australia and North America, that examines these questions, both from Indigenous and western perspectives. The essays provide fresh, thought-provoking insights into the politics of contemporary Native art as they investigate creative ways by which Native artists engage the global art world in their efforts to repossess their art and their heritage. . . . No Deal! . . . offers new, important avenues of inquiry into the politics of contemporary Indigenous art that will surely spark further research into controversies such as that of the Hopi in Paris.”
—Carter Jones Meyer, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Great Plains Quarterly, Fall 2015


  1. (Art)Writing: A New Cultural Frame for Native American Art
    Lea S. McChesney
  2. Whose Photographs? Native American Images on the Internet
    Nancy J. Parezo
  3. Revisiting an Inuit Perspective: Baker Lake Sculpture
    Marie Bouchard
  4. Literate Savages: Central Desert Painting as Writing
    Jennifer Biddle
  5. Bad Aboriginal Art
    Eric Michaels
  6. The Problematic of the Signature: Indigenous Arts and the Politics of Possession
    Tressa Berman
  7. Up for Grabs: Assessing the Consequences of Sustained Appropriations of Navajo Weavers’ Patterns
    Kathy M’Closkey
  8. Stop Sign at the Cultural Crossroads: Public Art at the University of New Mexico
    Suzanne Newman Fricke
  9. Censorship from Below: Aboriginal Art in Australian Museums
    Fred Myers
  10. “Silly Little Things”: Framing Global Self-Appropriations in Native Arts
    Nancy Marie Mithlo
  11. “Cultural Copy”: Visual Conversations on Indigenous Art and Cultural Appropriation
    Tressa Berman with Marco Centin

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.