Thursday, March 19th, 2020 Property and Appropriation: "Indian Spirit Guides" in 1890s US Spiritualism

Thursday, March 19, 20204:00PM - 6:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7


Property and Appropriation: “Indian Spirit Guides” in 1890s US Spiritualism

19thC U.S. Spiritualism was a progressive and feminist movement; it was also fraught with racial projection, appropriation, and longing. This talk focuses on the racialization of ghosts in the white Spiritualist movement—particularly the “Indian spirit-controls” that many white Spiritualists claimed were inhabiting their bodies. As I underscore the entanglement between settler-colonialism and Spiritualism, I focus on two particular narratives, my own great-grandfather’s 40-year “relationship” with a fantasized Indian healer and the story of Spiritualist leader Mary Pepper Vanderbilt and her “spirit-control” “Bright Eyes”—a complex narrative of class, gender, and race. In the words of Avery Gordon, I “reckon with haunting out of a concern for justice.”

Speaker Biography:
Julie Carr is the author of 10 books of poetry and prose, including Real Life: An Installation (Omindawn 2018), Objects from a Borrowed Confession (Ahsahta, 2017), and Someone Shot my Book (University of Michigan Press, 2018). Earlier books include 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta, 2010), RAG (Omnidawn, 2014), and Think Tank (Solid Objects, 2015). With Jeffrey Robinson she is the co-editor of Active Romanticism (University of Alabama Press, 2015). Her co-translation of Leslie Kaplan’s Excess-The Factory was published by Commune Editions in 2018. A chapbook of prose, “The Silence that Fills the Future,” was released as a free pdf from Essay Press:
Carr was a 2011-12 NEA fellow and is a Professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the English department and the Intermedia Arts Writing and Performance Ph.D. She has collaborated with dance artists K.J. Holmes and Gesel Mason. With Tim Roberts she is the co-founder of Counterpath Press, Counterpath Gallery, and Counterpath Community Garden in Denver.;;


Mio Otsuka (


Julie Carr
Professor, Department of English and Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance PhD program University of Colorado, Boulder

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