Tupelo and Red Oak: Cosmopolitical Citizens in the Land of the North Carolina Tuscarora?

MAXWELL, William - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Tuscarora artists of North Carolina fashion bread bowls out of tupelo wood (Nyssa aquatica L.) and mortars and pestles out of red oak (Quercus rubra L.) I explore to what extent one particular artist’s work with these native plants strengthens his connection to the land, contributes to his Tuscarora identity, and potentially contributes to Tuscarora recognition claims (the Tuscarora of North Carolina have not been recognized by the government). I consider here the potential of these plants to become cosmopolitical citizens in a similar manner that Marisol de la Cadena observed plants and mountains perform this function among the people of the Andes.  In other words, I consider in what ways the plants may be actively contributing to the tribe’s identity and recognition claims.  Simultaneously, I consider the work the artist does with the plants as an example of affective labor, in the tradition of Neera Singh.