Museology Master of Arts Program

November 20, 2019

More Than Two-Spirit: Queer Indigenous Sovereignty and Survivance in Museums

Thesis by Caitlin S. Cooper (2017)

The intention of this study was to identify ways museums represent Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous artists. This qualitative study included interviews with six Two-Spirit/queer Indigenous artists, using a phenomenological approach. Museums as cultural institutions built upon colonial ideals have the responsibility to amend museological authority that silence the voices of and refuse space to those that traverse intersectional identities. Two-Spirit artists examine the historical relationship of race, gender, and power as they pertain to material culture, contemporary self-expression, and art. Within this art they are Indigenizing Western academic spaces like museums, demanding accountability from institutions considered vessels of cultural knowledge. Findings suggest that curators’ willingness to listen, communicate, and engage in dialog is critical. The study also found that Two-Spirit artists’ work confronts heteronormativity by exhibiting shifts in gender roles across cultures and time and embodying the values of community organizing, storytelling, and survival.

Keywords: Class of 2017, Two-Spirit, Indigenous Art, Art Museum, queer, Native American, heteronormativity, research, LGBTQ, queer, interpretation, collections, Native American, museum, museum studies, museology


Cooper, C., & Morrissey, Kris. (2017). More than two-spirit : Queer indigenous sovereignty and survivance in museums. Seattle]: University of Washington.