Portrait of Professor David Stirrup

Professor David Stirrup

Professor of American Literature and Indigenous Studies
Deputy Head of School


David Stirrup completed his PhD at the University of Leeds in 2003 and came to Kent the following year. His research interests in Indigenous Studies focus primarily on Native North American literature and visual art. He is particularly interested in the relationship between literary and artistic production; in the intersection of politics and aesthetics; and in the legal, political, and theoretical debates over cultural and political sovereignty, indigeneity, and post-Imperial Britain’s responsibilities to the peoples it made treaties with during the colonial era.
He is the author of two monographs (Louise Erdrich, Manchester UP, 2010; and Visuality and Visual Sovereignty in Contemporary Anishinaabe Literature, Michigan State UP, 2019), and has co-edited five volumes of essays and four special journal issues on subjects ranging from culture and the Canada-US Border to Native Americans in the European Imaginary. David is also co-founder and co-editor of the online, open access journal Transmotion, hosted by the University of Kent, which prioritises contemporary, innovative Indigenous writing.
From 2012-2015 David was PI on the Leverhulme-Trust funded network “Culture and the Canada-US Border” with Dr Gillian Roberts (University of Nottingham) and a number of collaborators from the UK, US, and Canada. Since 2017 he has been PI on the AHRC-funded “Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Britain” with Prof. Jacqueline Fear-Segal (UEA) and Prof. Coll Thrush (UBC). This project runs until summer 2020.
In 2019 he will launch a new Centre for Indigenous and Settler Colonial Studies at the University of Kent, drawing on a broad network of institutions in the UK, US, and Canada. This is the first Centre of its kind in the UK.  

Research interests

  • Indigenous Studies
  • Native North American literature and visual art
  • Indigenous mobilities
  • Cultural Rhetorics
  • Alternative Literacies
  • Border Studies
  • Settler Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
  • The Canada-US Border
  • Indigeneity and the Far Right
  • Indigeneity and the UN
  • Contemporary African American and Black Canadian writing
  • American Literature of the 20th and 21st Centuries 


To date David has supervised projects at MRes and PhD levels on Native American literature, Asian American literature, Mapuche activism in Chile, the contemporary Short Story Sequence, Violence in American Literature, and cultural encounter in the early Colonial Americas. He is interested in receiving proposals for projects in any of the areas under ‘Research Interests’ above.   


  • Member of the British Association for American Studies,
  • Member of the British Association for Canadian Studies,
  • Committee/founder member of the Native Studies Research Network UK
  • Member of the Association for Studies in American Indian Literature
  • Member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association 



  • Mackay, J. and Stirrup, D. (2012). Native Americans in Europe (special journal issue). European Journal of American Culture 31:181-263.
  • Roberts, G. and Stirrup, D. (2010). Culture and the Canada-US Border (special journal issue). American Review of Canadian Studies 40:321-428.
  • Stirrup, D. (2006). Narrative Community, Community Narrative: (Anti-)Academic Discourse in Gordon Henry Jr.’s The Light People. Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture XXXIX:141-162.
  • Stirrup, D. (2006). "Songs belong to these islands": Mapping the Cultural Terrain in Louise Erdrich’s Nonfiction Porter, J. and Feest, C. eds. European Review of Native American Studies 20:1:29-34.
  • Stirrup, D. (2006). Narrative Community, Community Narrative: (Anti) Academic Discourse in Gordon Henry’s The Light People. Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 39:141-162.
  • Stirrup, D. (2005). Life after Death in Poverty: David Treuer’s Little. American Indian Quarterly 29:651-672.


  • Stirrup, D. (2010). Louise Erdrich. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
    Louise Erdrich is one of the most critically and commercially successful Native American writers, securing prestigious awards and an international readership with her debut novel, Love Medicine. This book is the first fully comprehensive treatment of Louise Erdrich's writing, analysing the textual complexities and diverse contexts of her work to date. Drawing on, and taking to task, the critical archive relating to Erdrich's work and to Native American literature more broadly, Stirrup explores the full depth and range of her authorship, charting common themes in her writing and interrogating positive and negative critical responses alike. Breaking Erdrich's oeuvre down into several groupings - the poetry, early and late fiction, memoir and children's writing - Stirrup develops individual readings of both the critical arguments and the texts themselves, demonstrating a number of comparative threads that cut across boundaries. Alongside nuanced readings, this book argues that Erdrich's work has developed an increasing political acuity and alertness to the profound relationship between ethics and aesthetics in Native American literatures. Ultimately, Erdrich's insistence on being read as an American writer is shown - in her own terms - to be in constant and mutually-inflecting dialogue with her Ojibwe heritage; resulting in work that is powerful, richly textured, and above all an engaged reflection on questions of influence in all its forms, community, sovereignty, history, and writing itself. Both synthesizing received wisdom, and offering numerous original readings of its own, this sophisticated analysis is of use to students and readers at all levels of engagement with Erdrich's writing.

Book section

  • Stirrup, D. (2016). This story is found: Silko’s Storyteller and the Roots of Native American Literature. In: Rainwater, C. ed. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Storyteller: New Perspectives. University of New Mexico Press, pp. 133-154.
  • Stirrup, D. (2015). Wild West in the Mild West: Reading the Canadian Anti-Western through The Englishman’s Boy. In: Paryz, M. and Leo, J. R. eds. The Post-2000 Film Western: Contexts, Transnationality, Hybridity. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 106-130. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9781137531285.
  • Stirrup, D. (2015).“Spinning the Binary: Visual Cultures and Literary Aesthetics.” In: Madsen, D. ed. Routledge Companion to Native American Literature. London: Routledge, pp. 340-352.
  • Stirrup, D. (2014). Bridging the Third Bank: Indigeneity and Installation Art at the Canada-US Border. In: Roberts, G. and Stirrup, D. F. eds. Parallel Encounters: Culture at the Canada-US Border. Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
  • Stirrup, D. (2013). Aadizookewininiwag and the Visual Arts: Story as Process and Principle in Twenty-first Century Anishinaabag Painting. In: Doerfler, J., Sinclair, N. J. and Stark, H. K. eds. Centering Anishinaabeg Studies: Understanding the World Through Stories. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, pp. 297-316.
    For the Anishinaabeg people, who span a vast geographic region from the Great Lakes to the Plains and beyond, stories are vessels of knowledge. They are "bagijiganan," offerings of the possibilities within Anishinaabeg life. Existing along a broad narrative spectrum, from "aadizookaanag "(traditional or sacred narratives) to "dibaajimowinan "(histories and news)--as well as everything in between--storytelling is one of the central practices and methods of individual and community existence. Stories create and understand, survive and endure, revitalize and persist. They honor the past, recognize the present, and provide visions of the future. In remembering, (re)making, and (re)writing stories, Anishinaabeg storytellers have forged a well-traveled path of agency, resistance, and resurgence. Respecting this tradition, this groundbreaking anthology features twenty-four contributors who utilize creative and critical approaches to propose that this people's stories carry dynamic answers to questions posed within Anishinaabeg communities, nations, and the world at large. Examining a range of stories and storytellers across time and space, each contributor explores how narratives form a cultural, political, and historical foundation for Anishinaabeg Studies. Written by Anishinaabeg and non-Anishinaabeg scholars, storytellers, and activists, these essays draw upon the power of cultural expression to illustrate active and ongoing senses of Anishinaabeg life. They are new and dynamic bagijiganan, revealing a viable and sustainable center for Anishinaabeg Studies, what it has been, what it is, what it can be.
  • Kirwan, P. and Stirrup, D. (2013). "I’m indiginous, I’m indiginous, I’m indiginous": Indigenous Rights, British Nationalism, and the European Far Right. In: Mackay, J. and Stirrup, D. F. eds. Tribal Fantasies: Native Americans in the European Imaginary, 1900-2010. Palgrave.
  • Stirrup, D. (2013). Reading around the dotted line: from the contact zones to the heartlands of First Nations Literatures. In: Lee, A. R. and Velie, A. eds. Native American Renaissance. Oklahoma University Press.
  • Stirrup, D. (2011). "To become a bureaucrat myself": History and Law in Tracks’. In: Madsen, D. ed. Louise Erdrich: Tracks, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, The Plague of Doves. Continuum.
  • Stirrup, D. (2010). "My body is my voice / Listen": Past, Presence, and the Poetic Voice (Joan Crate and Louise Erdrich). In: Pellerin, S. ed. A Usable Past: Tradition in Native American Arts and Literature. Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.
  • Stirrup, D. (2009). "According to our knowledge of ourselves": Andrew Blackbird’s Odawa History. In: Pellerin, S. ed. Before Yesterday: The Long History of Native American Writing. Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.
  • Stirrup, D. (2004). Artefact and Authenticity: Narrative Strategy in Contemporary Native American Fiction. In: Giordano, F. and Comba, E. eds. Indian Stories, Indian Histories. Torino: Otto Editore, pp. 95-108. Available at: http://www.otto.to.it/catalogo/pdf_demo/IS_ebook_d.pdf.

Edited book

  • Stirrup, D. (2013). Parallel Encounters: Culture and the Canada-US Border. Roberts, G. and Stirrup, D. F. eds. Waterloo, Ontario, CA: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
    The essays collected in offer close analysis of an array of cultural representations of the Canada-US border, in both site-specificity and in the ways in which they reveal and conceal cultural similarities and differences. Contributors focus on a range of regional sites along the border and examine a rich variety of expressive forms, including poetry, fiction, drama, visual art, television, and cinema produced on both sides of the 49th parallel. The field of border studies has hitherto neglected the Canada-US border as a site of cultural interest, tending to examine only its role in transnational policy, economic cycles, and legal and political frameworks. Border studies has long been rooted in the US-Mexico divide; shifting the locus of that discussion north to the 49th parallel, the contributors ask what added complications a site-specific analysis of culture at the Canada-US border can bring to the conversation. In so doing, this collection responds to the demands of Hemispheric American Studies to broaden considerations of the significance of American culture to the Americas as a whole -- bringing Canadian Studies into dialogue with the dominantly US-centric critical theory in questions of citizenship, globalisation, Indigenous mobilisation, hemispheric exchange, and transnationalism.
  • Stirrup, D. (2012). Tribal Fantasies: Native Americans in the European Imaginary, 1900-2010. MacKay, J. and Stirrup, D. F. eds. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
    This transnational collection discusses the use of Native American imagery in twentieth and twenty-first-century European culture. With examples ranging from Irish oral myth, through the pop image of Indians promulgated in pornography, to the philosophical appropriations of Ernst Bloch or the European far right, contributors illustrate the legend of "the Indian." Drawing on American Indian literary nationalism, postcolonialism, and transnational theories, essays demonstrate a complex nexus of power relations that seemingly allows European culture to build its own Native images, and ask what effect this has on the current treatment of indigenous peoples.

Edited journal

  • Clarke, J. and Stirrup, D.F. eds. (2015). Comparative American Studies. [Online] 13. Available at: http://www.maneyonline.com/toc/cas/current.
    Straddling Boundaries: Culture and the Canada-US Border special double issue, 13:1-2
  • Mackay, J. and Stirrup, D.F. eds. (2012). European Journal of American Culture. [Online] 31. Available at: http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-issue,id=2304/.
    Native Americans in Europe special issue, 31:3 (2012)
  • Roberts, G. and Stirrup, D.F. eds. (2010). American Review of Canadian Studies. [Online] 40. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rarc20/40/3.
    Culture and the Canada-US Border special issue 40:3 (2010)

Internet publication

  • Stirrup, D. (2010). "to the Indian Names Are Subjoined a Mark and seal": Tracing the Terrain of Ojibwe Writing [Web]. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/doi/10.1111/j.1741-4113.2010.00707.x/full.


  • Stirrup, D. and St. George, A. (2008). Between Earth and Sky: In Conversation with Andrew St. George.


  • Stirrup, D. (2006). Louis F. Burns. Osage Indian Customs and Myths (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press 2005 $19.95). Journal of American Studies [Online] 40:420-421. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021875806291801.
  • Stirrup, D. (2006). Review. Journal of American Studies [Online] 40:440-440. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S002187580650180X.
  • Stirrup, D. (2005). The literary West: an anthology of western American literature by Thomas J. Lyon. Oxford UP, 1999. American Studies Today Online [Online]:N/A. Available at: http://www.americansc.org.uk/Reviews/Litwest.htm.
  • Stirrup, D. (2005). Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine: a casebook by Hertha D. Sweet Wong. Oxford UP, 2000. American Studies Today Online [Online]:n/a. Available at: http://www.americansc.org.uk/Reviews/Love_medicine.htm.


  • Blower, N. (2018). Outsiders in Red Rock Country: The Kaiparowits Project and the Reputation of American Environmentalism.
    This dissertation interrogates the ways in which a series of critical newspapers, federal agencies, and private industries sought to re-shape and negatively frame the public image of post-war conservation and environmental groups in Utah and the Intermountain West. It traces, through a series of environmental-energy conflicts located around southern Utah's Kaiparowits Plateau, how commentators employed attacks on public image to de-legitimise and contain what was seen as the escalating spread of a political and cultural force: environmentalism. Beginning in the early 1950s and proceeding through much of the United States' 'environmental decade,' I detail the mutating nature and variable efficacy of these attacks as environmentalists were alternately associated with Communism, Middle Eastern oil cartels, and the counterculture. Recognising environmental groups as co-producers in this shifting public image, I also account for their counter-attempts at defending their reputations using advertising, photography, and promotional materials.

    This project offers a revisionist approach to standard narratives of the ascendancy of environmental organisations. Historical accounts have typically focused on the increasing competency, professionalism, and popularity of these advocacy groups. However, few explorations have focused on the way public understandings of the movement were shaped by a range of hostile critics that constructed environmentalists in a series of decidedly pejorative frames. I argue that even as several environmental organisations achieved increased political access and potency in the years 1950-1980, their reputations in the same period experienced a comparable decline. This resultant divisive reputation in the Intermountain states would come to play a central factor in the movement's subsequent loss of political and cultural agency in the region in the 1980s.
  • Mongiat, T. (2017). Confronting Heteronormativity in Postcolonial Zimbabwean Literature.
    This project addresses the settler colonial context of Rhodesia and postcolonial Zimbabwe, and investigates the nature of, and relationship between, gender and sexual norms and colonialism through early postcolonial literary responses. Literature is not merely examined as a source of representation, but as an element of discourse which reflects and shapes norms. I analyse how writers police and reiterate heteronorms, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, and how they resist and contest the realities and logic of heteronormativity.

    Robert Mugabe's now infamous homophobic outbursts in 1995 dehumanised homosexuals through references to dogs and pigs, and associated same-sex sexuality with American and European contexts. His rhetoric articulated a form of heteronormative nationalism which politicised the memory of colonialism, but also represented a significant discursive change in Zimbabwean society. Homosexuality, previously submerged by a culture of discretion and repression, had moved from the domain of the unspoken to the spoken, and from an invisible to a visible presence. Previously, references to homosexuality had been absent from public discourse in the postcolonial and much of the colonial period, and in Zimbabwean literature until the 1990s. Yet Dambudzo Marechera's controversial and progressive writing provided an exception - he explicitly represented the same-sex sexuality suggested by homoerotic depictions in other writing, but which was not portrayed.

    This offers an example of the way I approach literature in this thesis - I view writing as a means of representation, but also as an element of discourse which reflects, shapes, and contests ideas and norms. Discourse, following the work of multiple poststructural theorists, is conceived of as a constitutive form which produces and limits subjects and expression, but which is subject to a persistent threat of reconstitution. My project, which explores the articulation of heteronormativity in postcolonial writing until the 1990s, is intersectional, and documents the relation between modes of oppression. Accordingly, gender constructions are examined and related to the articulation of normative heterosexuality, and to other signifiers, especially notions of race and ethnicity integral to the settler colonial context of Rhodesia and to Zimbabwean society. Colonialism is discussed throughout, and I examine and problematise the represented relationship between heteronormativity and the violent material, discursive, and psychological products of colonialism, and postcolonial nationalisms. My project aims to satisfy the need for a composite intersectional study examining heteronormativity in Zimbabwean literature.
  • Edwards, R. (2016). Mythology, Ideology and the Contemporary American Short Story Cycle.
    The present study proposes that there is an intrinsic relationship between
    the contemporary American short story cycle and the myth and ideology of the
    United States. I argue that the contemporary form of the story cycle has become
    the genre of choice for certain authors whose work explicitly challenges the
    dominant ideological discourses of Euroamerica and its underpinning
    The five authors and the texts I discuss are Tim O’Brien and The Things
    They Carried, Julia Alvarez and How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents,
    Gerald Vizenor and Landfill Meditation, Sherman Alexie and Ten Little Indians,
    and Thomas King and Green Grass, Running Water.
    In the thesis I address the interrelationship between ideology and
    mythology and this is the foundation for my examination of the way that these
    five disparate writers each uses the story cycle in his or her own distinctive way to
    challenge a dominant ideology and the mythology that underpins it.


  • Jobin, D. (2019). Mapping Out Native American Space in Contemporary Anishinaabe Literature.
    The literary production of contemporary Anishinaabe writers Louise Erdrich, David Treuer and Gerald Vizenor outline imaginary geographies based in Northern Dakota and Minnesota that also branch out towards transnational spaces. By reading contemporary Anishinaabe fiction as literary cartography, this thesis reveals the complex maps of interaction that connect reservation spaces with a much wider range of environments by both integrating and expanding upon Indigenous histories of mobility to include border-crossings and international exchanges. The networks that emerge suggest the possibility of a more expansive Native space that nevertheless asserts Anishinaabe self-determination and sovereignty. This project aims to answer Lisa Brooks's question "What kind of map emerges [...] when the texts of Anglo-American history and literature are participants in Native space rather than the center of the story?" (The Common Pot) by using literary cartography from a tribally-centred perspective and relying on Indigenous methodologies to let meaning emerge from the texts themselves.
    The thesis is structured geographically and temporally starting, in the introduction, with the tribe's western migration in the mid-nineteenth century to outline the mobile practices of the Anishinaabe. Chapter one focuses on the reservation to map out space dynamically by revealing the many pathways that cross its boundaries and the mobile relationship of characters with the land. In chapter two, urban spaces are reclaimed as part of an Indigenous tradition of movement; the novels use artwork or translation as metaphors for the ties between urban characters and the reservation to establish Indigenous networks that reach into the cities. Chapter three offers a hemispheric reading of the primary texts, explores transatlantic connections, and looks at global networks in order to show how transnational encounters can simultaneously acknowledge the complexity of settler histories and intercultural exchanges while maintaining an Indigenous lens through which wide-ranging spaces are apprehended. Chapter four looks at speculative fiction that explores different possibilities for citizenship and land-based sovereignty to envision territorial futurities for Anishinaabe people. Finally, the Coda discusses digitised environments that repeat traumas inherited from the past even as they attempt to create different outcomes for the future. Together, these readings constitute a dynamic map of networks that reclaim a wide variety of spaces as Native through a sovereign aesthetic that is fundamentally Anishinaabe.
  • Stirrup, D. (2016). Enduring Critical Poses : Beyond Nation and History. [Online]. Henry, Jr., G. and Stirrup, D. F. eds. SUNY Press. Available at: https://www.sunypress.edu/searchadv.aspx.
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