Sunday November 12, 2017

Indiginerds rising: 'Nerds and geeks were marginalized, just like Indigenous people'

The second annual Indigenous Comic Con is on in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The second annual Indigenous Comic Con is on in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Indigenous Comic Con)

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With the rising popularity of nerd culture, there's also a rise in Indiginerds.

Indigenous people can be nerds too. Though nerds and geeks haven't always been popular. Nerd culture has always provided a community for anyone who needed it.

"[Comic Con] attracted folks who were already sort of outside the norm, I mean when you were a geek back then you went to a Con to meet with other geeks. It was great to be around folks who had the same set of interests who could do the Vulcan salute, who might be able to speak Klingon with you," said culture critic and Indiginerd Jesse Wente.

In the 1970s and '80s it really wasn't popular to be a nerd, geek or anything else that was associated with nerd culture.

Jesse Wente

Jesse Wente

But with the rise of technology came the rise of nerd popularity — and in the age of the internet, it should be no surprise that nerds and geeks are more accepted, Wente explained.

"The proliferation of geek and nerdiness and the culture that surrounds those things, how mainstream that has become, that increasingly you're not embarrassed by those terms," he said.

For Wente, nerd culture has definitely given Indigenous people a community where they feel they belong — after all, Indigenous people were marginalized too. 

"We're outsiders already," he said. "I think there's a natural attraction for folks that are absent or have been historically absent from popular culture, that they would gravitate toward where more marginalized people would tend to gather."

While events like Comic Con were originally populated largely by white men, Wente said Indigenous people from all over are joining nerd culture through comic books, video games and movies. Thor: Ragnarok was directed by Māori director Taika Waititi, something Wente called "the pinnacle of Indigenous nerdom."​

"I think what's interesting is to imagine how Indigenous philosophy, [and] Indigenous thought might create a different sort of geek or nerd culture because it was designed outside of us," Wente said.