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Embodying an imagined other through rebellion, resistance and joy: Mardi Gras Indians and Black indigeneity

Ricardo Guthrie


This article examines embodied double and triple consciousness expressed by African Americans who reflect Indigenous and transplanted African/Indian heritages while performing as Mardi Gras “Indians” in New Orleans. Moving beyond simplistic dichotomies of “Africanness” and “indigeneity,” Black Indians produce sustained historical and cultural identities which reinforce Afro-indigeneity to overcome oppressive conditions while creating a foundation for resilience. Mardi Gras Indians perform ritual parades and complex acts of resistance and joy—playfully appropriating and adapting African, Indian and American cultures to interrogate hybrid identities beyond Black/White paradigms. The playful ambiguities—and mocking stereotypical images of savage Indians and Africans—continue to be displayed through music, art and pop cultural expressions well into the post-Katrina era. An examination of Black Indians through a cultural-historical analysis sets the stage for a reassessment of popular culture and the HBO TV series Treme (Simon, 2010–2013)—specifically its use of fictive, triple-conscious imaginaries which give life to vibrant, joyful expressions of resistance.

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Print ISSN 1177-1801 Online ISSN 1174-1740