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“Are you the translator?”: Intermedial Narratives in Paisley Rekdal’s "Intimate: An American Family Photo Album"

Sonia Weiner


Pages 341 - 360

DOI https://doi.org/10.33675/AMST/2023/3/6


open-access

This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

Creative Commons License


In her 2011 intermedial memoir, "Intimate: An American Family Photo Album," Paisley Rekdal plays the role of translator between normative Anglo-American and ethnic American identities, by including photographs of Native Americans in her “family photo album.” Weaving photographs taken by Edward S. Curtis, along with those taken by various ethnographers into her memoir, Rekdal orchestrates a dialog in which the images complement and argue against each other. Her three-pronged narrative (her familial narrative and the fictionally imagined narratives of Curtis and his Apsaroke guide Alexander Upshaw) creates a powerful intermedial interplay between words and images, highlighting questions of intimacy within family constructs. Focusing on the topics of miscegenation and assimilation within Native American communities and visible in photographs, Rekdal problematizes the larger question of “intimacy” using images to illustrate how colonialism has infiltrated the most intimate moments in the lives of ethnic Americans, including that of her own family, to assume control over conventions of racial identity. Rekdal uses an intermedial aesthetic to expose racism and discrimination, and to transgress boundaries that bifurcate diverse American identities.

Key Words: intimacy; intermediality; Paisley Rekdal; Native American photographs; mixed-race

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