Native Americans within the dominant society remains locked up inside powerful stereotypes. He starts up with the description of a photograph of an Indian woman, dressed in a beaded buckskin dress, sitting under a salon hair dryer. He explains that the photograph not only juxtaposes whites' stereotype of Indians as rimitive and the technologies associated with modernity, but also reveals the colonial project. With this framework Deloria initiates discussions of how Native Americans often refuse to fulfill the expectations of non-Indians and established their own notion of Indianness that "engaged the same forces of modernization that were making non-Indians reevaluate their own expectation of themselves and their society" (p. 6). The book is focused on the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when he claims America was going through the turmoil of anxieties regarding modernity and the coexistence with a large indigenous population. Throughout the book, Deloria investigates the artifacts of cultural production--Indian participation in athletic events, Indian purchases of automobiles, Indian performance in early film, and the adaptation of native music by whites. He particularly draws attention to the venues that are often overlooked by American Indian scholars as locations where Indians and non-Indians participate in a historical process that restructures the meaning and expectations of Indianness.
As I come from a communication background, I was particularly interested in the chapter about "Representation." Deloria examines the manifestation of Indian violence on the silver screen and investigates the participation of native actors in the construction of images that reinforce the image of a
historicized Indian. Deloria points out that while Indian actors fortified the stereotyped image of the violent Indian, they could also demonstrate to non-Indian audiences that Indians, as thespians, could participate in the modern world. However, non-Indians read Indian participation as a validation of misconstrued expectations, rather than evidence of Indian agency. This is because as Deloria specifies non-Indians closely linked authenticity and illusion, and for many "illusion came to matter more than authenticity" (p. 106). This revelation of agency construction by the Indians was particularly fascinating as it resonates with Tsing's (2005) concept of scales, how individuals construct agency using certain ideologies. The "Representation"
chapter I think provides a great example of the construction of Indian agency.
Further, in the "Representation" chapter, Deloria tells us that Indians protested the violent image of Indians in film when they viewed the pictures on reservations or while visiting larger cities. Deloria cites a southern Californian agent who said that Indians often spent their "last cent on a moving picture when they visited the city" (p. 92). Even though Deloria dissects the meaning of the image of Indians in the films, the role of the actors in reinforcing the expectations of non-Indians, and the protests of Indians against the images, I was wondering about the role of Indians as consumers of the cultural artifact. The early twentieth century marked a period where a growing consumer culture promised whites access to higher levels within a class hierarchy.
Therefore my questions:
1. Did non-Indian anxieties about Indian inclusion into American society prevent them from seeing native people as consumers in this example?
2. How did Indian people negotiate non-Indian expectations about consumerism?
Deloria, P. J. (2004).Indians in unexpected places. University Press of Kansas.
Tsing, A. L. (2005). Friction: An ethnography of global connection. Princeton University Press:
Princeton and Oxford.