Joshua Whithead’s ‘Making Love with the Land’ is a Luminous Exploration of Queer Indigeneity

Can you talk about the process of writing about the body in this book? How do you stay with those moments of physicality and open them up? 

I write, and know for myself, that my physical body is always embryonically tied to the body of texts I produce, as much as it’s in relation to bodies of water, land, sky, non-humans. And sometimes I think of writing as if it were method acting. To write honestly of pain, to make visceral a sclera requires one to think of wounds as holders of knowledge, of hurt not only as detrimental or as empowering, but as transformative. I suppose I write with a directorial eye, to emphasize the importance and the fundamental bodies of knowledge wound up within the quotidian, especially the minute — as in small — ways in which a chickenpox scar is an archive of childhood, and ancestrally of pandemic and genocide, or how a scar houses story. It’s the small that fascinates me — to zoom, hyperbolically so, to make a follicle into a canyon.

What is the importance of the body in terms of other themes you explore, like the identity markers queer and Indigenous, and the ways in which colonialism and language categorize people?

Body is the most fundamental noun, to me. How gargantuan it is, how it elides, how it lies, how it is amorphous and embodied. It holds creation in it: least of all not entirely bound up within these zippers of skin we call a body, but more so how our bodies are in relation with all-bodies simultaneously. I think we all experienced an Indigenous way of being in relation interconnectedly when we were touch-starved in COVID, where we would venture outside of our Groundhog Day homes, the treachery of routine, mercenary to capitalism’s clock (and how I hear the clicking of Dolly’s nails singing “9 to 5” here), and experience a plethora of sensations. 

We knew, and had always known, but perhaps forgot in the dank breath of colonialism’s maw, that we are always in relation with everything surrounding: birdsong, rivertongues, windbreath. I hope that we can continue to keep that as a way of knowing our roles not as owners of these rhizomes of bodies, but as stewards, as siblings of them.

How did you approach writing about food and nourishment in the book, and how does that interact with not only the body but ideas of excess or scarcity, consumption, etc.?

As someone living with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, it goes without saying I have made food out to be my enemy for far too long (and will always be in combat with my relationship with nourishment). How capitalistic, colonial, how wendigo-like is it to be an NDN who comes from poverty and expunges hard-earned food? To be the metaphorical gunman with a bison in my bullseye. I have worked so hard to reconceptualize that relationship with therapy and a food addiction specialist. I have many bodies. I have been unbodied. 


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