» » The Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government Politics

Download The Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government Politics epub

by James A. Clifton

This is an explosive collection of essays, written by leading scholars of North American Indians, most of them heavily involved in service and applied work, often on behalf of Indian clients, communities, and organizations. In an area saturated with deadening, consciously politicized orthodoxy, these seventeen essays aim at nothing less than the reconstruction of our understanding of the American Indian-past and present

The volume examines in careful, accurate but uncompromising ways the recent construction of the prevailing conventional story-line about "America's most favored underclass." The first eight essays introduce the volume and treat a variety of specific invented traditions concerning Indians. These are followed by four essays on broader, thematic issues related to the demographic, religious, cultural, and kinship elements in Indian studies. The final five chapters express a comparative perspective: from Anglo and French Canada, Europe, from inside the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and from a legal position.

The Invented Indian explores how cultural fictions promote divisiveness and translate into policy. Throughout, the volume reveals a deep and abiding respect for Indians, their histories, and their cultures, saving its critiques for jaundiced academics and callow politicians. Representing years of cooperative effort, this work brings together a group providing breadth and balance. Far more than a critical collection, it is a constructive effort to make sense of a field displaying empirical confusions and moral muddles. The volume will be of interest to anthropologists, professionals in Indian studies, and policymakers.

Download The Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government Politics epub
ISBN: 1560007451
ISBN13: 978-1560007456
Category: Politics
Subcategory: Social Sciences
Author: James A. Clifton
Language: English
Publisher: Transaction Publishers; 1 edition (January 1, 1990)
Pages: 388 pages
ePUB size: 1468 kb
FB2 size: 1100 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 585
Other Formats: lit mbr lrf txt

This is an excellent and well cited book. I would recommend this to anyone studying the era.
I read this book for a paper I had to write about Native Americans. It is an interesting collection of diverse essays dealing with the American Indians. Although I cannot say that each essay was equally interesting (I am not a lawyer), I can say that everyone writing or thinking about Native Americans in the nineties should include this book in his reading-list.
"The Invented Indian" is a brilliant dissection of the myths that have been so widely circulated by Indians and their apologists. Trading on their supposed past victimization, Indians--like other minorities--have used the power of guilt and smear to gain socio/political and economic spoils from brow-beaten whites. Veteran anthropologist James Clifton is to be congratulated for bravely stepping aside the unwritten rules on how to talk about minorities in general, and Indians in particular by exposing these myths.
I picked this up looking for some even-handed, honest critique of the politics of Indian identity, but this book is a bit too overzealous. The editor Clifton spends so much effort denying he has an anti-Indian agenda and ridiculing the Indians and Indian "apologists" who will predictably protest this book, one cannot help wonder if he himself "protests too much." The book includes as an appendix a laundry list of anticipated insults (e.g., "you are anti-indian," "you are racist") in a preemptive attempt to denigrate the book's detractors, which is completely out of place in a supposedly neutral, academic work.

Clifton is so obsessed with debunking the "Indian myth" that, instead of showing all the complexities of Indian existence, he goes a long way in painting them as frauds. While the book contains some interesting insights, it is hard to pick these out when the book conveys the overall sense that the editor has some sort of ideological or personal ax to grind.

Even giving Clifton the generous benfit of the doubt, this book provides a ready weapon for others like the reviewer below, who don't attempt to hide their resentment towards Indians and "other minorities." The intentions behind this book may not be malicious, as Clifton insists, but they are at least reckless as far as academic works go.
Clifton's anthology is transparently racist and reactionary. I picked this book up at the library, thinking that it dealt with the politics of representation, a sort of "Orientalism" for Native Americans. Instead, I found white authors not only dismissing the rights and contributions of indigenous peoples, but having the gall to claim that non-Indians, because of their "critical distance," can understand natives better than natives can understand themselves. Upon further reading, I discovered that both Vine Deloria JR and Ward Churchill are extremely critical of this influential and racist collection. If one is genuinely interested in issues of representation, this is a much better collection:

Dressing in Feathers: The Construction

or, if one is concerned with the legal and political consequences of Indian stereotyping and misrepresentation, Robert Williams' "Like a Loaded Weapon" deals with these issues (although I recommend skipping the introduction and first chapter):

Like a Loaded Weapon: The Rehnquist Court, Indian Rights, and the Legal History of Racism in America (Indigenous Americas)
This is a book that is very difficult to take seriously from an academic perspective, especially since, for the most part, the tides of scholarship have moved dramatically in the opposite direction of the book's major theses. In the generation since its original publication, much evidence has emerged demonstrating that Native American contributions to world knowledge and achievement have been systematically undervalued for centuries; whereas, from beginning to end, this book engages in what might be called "briar picking" as opposed to cherry-picking. One after another, the separate authors seek out the most negative interpretations possible of Native American culture, pointing exclusively to any evidence that tends to negate or deny any previously held views that may tend to value the achievements of the original inhabitants of the Americas. If this were done for Black culture in Africa, noone would doubt the blatant racism involved. Imagine a book written by non-Europeans which attempted in every chapter to doubt the value of European culture, slighting the Spanish in one chapter, the Swedes in another; pouring scorn on Lord Byron, or Cervantes, or Dante; belittling the Magna Carta; doubting the achievements of German or Hungarian art or French or British science; and pooh poohing the significance of European culture in general. It sounds like good fun, but not good scholarship and not balanced judgement.

No matter how reasonable such a book's arguments might be in specific cases, assembling only one side of the discussion in order to belittle a race that has already been sorely dealt with and stigmatized should be rejected with utter contempt for the editor's prejudiced approach and dubious intentions. Check out Wikipedia's discussion of "confirmation bias", the tendency to search for, interpret, or recall information in a way that confirms the author's previously held beliefs. This is a classic fallacy of inductive reasoning and should be dismissed as such.