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RADMILLA'S VOICE: Music Genre, Blood Quantum, and Belonging on the Navajo Nation

Cultural Anthropology

Published online on


In this article, I examine race, sound, and belonging through an analysis of the first Navajo/African American Miss Navajo Nation, Radmilla Cody. Cody, a professional singer and a Navajo citizen, has been a polarizing public figure in Navajo communities since her crowning in 1997. Utilizing a mixed methodology of participant observation, sound recordings, and press releases, I probe how sound and voice inform a politics of indigeneity in today's Navajo Nation (Diné Bikéyah). Focusing on black/Native parentage and how sound serves as an additional form of marking, I foreground how voice, musical genre, and blood quantum inform public opinion about social authenticity and about who belongs as a Diné citizen. My larger contention becomes that both poetics and politics matter, albeit in differing ways and on divergent scales.