Pauline Turner StrongAmerican Indians and the American Imaginary: Cultural Representation Across the Centuries

Paradigm Publishers, 2012

by Linda Ho Peché and Kayla Price on August 20, 2013

Pauline Turner Strong

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Pauline Turner Strong’s new book American Indians and the American Imaginary: Cultural Representation Across the Centuries (Paradigm Publishers, 2012) traces the representations of Native Americans across various public spheres of the American imaginary. Based on historical and ethnographic research, she documents how representations of Native Americans have circulated through time and into ever-widening cultural domains. In the first section of the book, Strong begins by defining a theory of representational practices that employs an ethnographic approach. She then traces particular forms of representing Native Americans by exploring the concepts of  “tribe” and “Indian blood.” The third section of the book focuses on narratives of captivity on the indigenous/settler frontier, highlighting the significance of captivity narratives to American national identity. The following section features a critical analysis of “playing Indian” as racial mimesis and cultural appropriation, highlighting the ways in which American youth are socialized into practices such as participating in Thanksgiving pageants of Pilgrims and Indians, using tribal names as part of camp activities, and even playing “cowboys and Indians.” The fifth and final section of the book, “Indigenous Imaginaries,” examines the more recent developments in indigenous politics of representation, including contemporary trends in collaborative ethnographic research and writing, and the installation of the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Pauline Strong contributes a careful analysis that traces the heritage of colonialist representations of American Indians and considers the ways in which contemporary practices and indigenous projects could begin to pose powerful challenges to these dominant representations in the American imaginary.

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