Deloria's text also made me think about other contemporary "expectations" of today's Natives, including the supposed "traditional knowledge" they keep about the future (or end) of the world. Mayans, Hopi -- there is a strong connection for some folks between some indigenous cultures in the Americas (can't speak about other places) and aliens, making Natives a solid part of UFO culture and lore. Of course, this is very much based on stereotypical views of Natives, but I am less interested in those stereotypes than in how they form a relationship with ideas about aliens and/or the apocalypse. -- Tiffany
Yeah, posting in pieces because that's how I process. Anyway, I started wondering why people who believe in aliens or apocalypse even need Indians mixed in there. I mean, beliefs in extraterrestrial beings and the end of the world have been around for centuries, certainly before the "New World" was "discovered." So what do indigenous groups from the Americas bring to the table?
In short? Authenticity. If one surmises (as some folklore researchers do) that aliens represent a secularized version of angels and demons, then Natives provide a link between the extraterrestrial (with their almost magical superior technology, not to mention being from realms unknown) and the terrestrial. If aliens have been around since the so-called ancient times, then only those peoples with ancient memories can attest to their reality with any surety. And Natives are perceived to have maintained an unbroken link to their ancestral heritage, including being able to translate petroglyphs that seem to show people meeting with alien beings.
With regard to the endtimes, the nature of the apocalypse in North America has also become increasingly secularized. Though there are still plenty of people who stick to Judgment Day according to the Book of Revelation, many people consider a more nature-alized scenario, where natural (or, again, extraterrestrial) disaster will wipe out great swaths of humanity.
Once again, with the general "expectation" that Natives have a stronger connection to the natural world than anyone else, a prophecy that predicts any major world change (often turned into an end of days scenario) provides authenticity. It absolutely does not matter whether such prophecies are "true" or "false," "real" or "not real." What matters is the affective relationship non-Natives have with their expectations of Natives in order to provide validity to apocalyptic scenarios or to visitations by alien beings.
(sorry for the book....had to get it out while I was still thinking about it.)
Philip J. Deloria’s Indians In Unexpected Places (2004) challenges non-Native readers in particular to rethink how they conceive of Natives as something dichotomous to "modern" space. He uses various examples from the beginning decades of the twentieth century (focusing on indigenous groups from the northern plains) to show how "a significant cohort of Native people engaged the same forces of modernization that were making non-Indians reevaluate their own expectations of themselves and their society" (6). Delving into the relationships Natives had with cars, sports, movies, and art song, Deloria tries to show how Natives taking part in these so-called modern activities, for whatever reason, went against non-Natives' expectations and thus worked to disrupt those expectations to varying extents.
As I read this text, I found myself speculating not only on the historical content but also on my own relationship to this book. It seems important not only to speculate on how "Indians in unexpected places" shaped non-Native views about Natives during this period in American history, but also to consider how those expectations continue to shape non-Native thought today. For example, the discussion of the singer Tsianina Redfeather in Chapter Five complicates the relationship between Native singers (in the context of "high" art song) and their white audiences. Deloria tells us that Tsianina Redfeather had to be seen as both authentically Indian and racially invisible in order to find a place of value on the stage, as her Indianness was mitigated by her talent as a vocalist. Thus, audiences could choose to focus on her race or deny it in favor of fixating on her talent, and somewhere in the gaps, there stood a Native singer participating in what is perceived of as a traditionally European musical realm. Standing squarely in that gap, these performers could "play…with white expectation, holding out familiar signs that proclaimed ‘Indian’ even as they offered more nuanced musical performances" (212).
My study of folklore has driven home the idea that tradition is dynamic, not static; the perception of the static-ness of tradition, however, gives it its value. In reading this chapter in particular, I found even myself momentarily surprised out of my own expectations of what constitutes traditional art song or opera (for which I, uh, thank a particular academic musical training), and I feel that this is exactly Deloria's point. While non-Native audiences of the time may or may not have been jarred out of their own expectations, the actual goal of this book is to jar us out of ours, either again or for the first time.
Apologies, but I'm having real issue in coming up with questions at the moment. TBD?
In From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (2012) Paige West offers an ethnography of the social connections that coffee creates between Papua New Guineans and coffee consumers of the global West. In particular, the author focuses on the production, distribution, and circulation of coffee as a commodity as well as its relationships to neolibralization, marketing images, third party regulatory systems (organic and fair trade certification), labor, value, and political ecology.
In chapter one on “Neoliberal Coffee,” West argues that the images used to market coffee produced in Papua New Guinea are not representative of the situation for coffee farmers and others tied to the industry. These narratives conflate poverty with the primitive and perpetuate damaging narratives about indigenous people, pristine culture, and linear development from privative to modern. West points to the Dean’s Beans blog entry, where the employee recounts his experiences traveling to Papua New Guinea to set up fair trade agreements with the coffee farmers there. She asserts that,
These marketing narratives engage a set of representational practices that seem to show clear connections between “alternative forms of consumption in the North” and social and environmental justice in the South (345). However, they shoe a fictitious version of political ecology. In addition, they craft producers and consumers in ways that are equally fictitious,. These moments, the moment of consumer production, the moment of producer production, and the moment of fictitious political ecology, would not be possible were it not for the neoliberal changes in the global economy that have taken place over the last fifty years. Nor would they be possible without the growth of the specialty coffee industry. (p. 41)
As someone who not long ago regularly patronized coffee shops in Western Mass that proudly used Dean’s Beans coffee products, it was easy for me to relate to this example. West goes on to show how fair trade and organic certification “refetishize” rather than “defetishize” the labor of Papua New Guineans (p. 50). In other words, privileged western consumers are fooling themselves when they assume that their consumer choices motivated by ethical and political commitments are causing positive political action. In fact, as West demonstrates, these marketing and consumer patterns have negative material effects on the coffee producers.
I have to say that this was the most interesting book I have read in the last year, maybe longer. I thoroughly enjoyed the way West defined her meaning of neoliberalism (p. 26), unpacked how the ideological values behind coffee marketing campaigns, and made her discussion of these complex issues and her arguments accessible for a non-anthropologist like me while still situating her project in the existing scholarship. Most importantly, her book challenged me to rethink my conception of fair trade and organic certification, as well as the limits of consumerist activism.
1. Like Tsing’s, West’s book is engaged with theories of globalization and seeks to offer an ethnography of global connections. What are some of the differences and similarities between their approaches to documenting these global connections?
2. In what ways, if any, has West’s book challenged you to rethink the limits of consumerist activism? I think of all the purchasing choices that I made that are politically or ethically motivated and that I consider part of my identity (shopping at an employee-owned store like Winco, avoiding Walmart, choosing Zoe’s over Starbucks, not owning a car, buying second hand items, buying dry food products in bulk, limiting my consumption of plastics, paper goods, and meat) and wonder how delusional I actually am. Is my faith in my “political” choices as a consumer keeping me participating in “real” political action? (Yes, I know we critiqued the concept of “authentic” change, but I still think that the concept is useful in this context.)
We support and applaud Air Pacific for choosing to use masi motifs on the new Fiji Airways fleet. We are proud that our culture is being showcased to the world. But we don't support Air Pacific's application to trademark these motifs.
These cultural motifs are used in masi making, mat-weaving, wood-carving and by other artisans and craftspeople. These motifs were not created by Air Pacific and have been handed down over the generations.
The trademark means that masi makers, carvers, weavers and our craftspeople will have to ask permission from Air Pacific if they want to use these masi motifs or draudrau in future.
Do more than just making a comment on facebook - be heard, sign the petition, write a letter and get more signatures friends. The petition is online here
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