Libraries and White Supremacy Thoughts Around the Campfire

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Matt Ostercamp


Shortly after the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020, I came across the 1872 painting American Progress. In this painting, westward expansion is being led by a large floating white woman with a schoolbook in one arm and telegraph wires in the other. The indigenous inhabitants of the west cower before this apparition. It is indeed a haunting image. In this paper, I explore the legacy of enlightenment constructs of civilized/savage in the operations of academic libraries. I then introduce indigenous authors Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Shawn Wilson who offer some alternatives to western knowledge practices. Finally, I conclude by reflecting on what theological librarians can contribute to our professional conversation on White Supremacy.

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