J. Kadar: Going Indian: Cultural Appropriation in North American Literature

Biblioteca Javier Coy d’estudis nord-americans. Valencia: Valencia UP, 2012. 262 l.
ISBN 978.84.370.8976-8

The literary crop since the publication of T. Berger’s Little Big Man (1964) and R. Kroetsch’s Gone Indian (1973) shows unceasing interest in the phenomenon of white persons going Indian or Native, as well as a new excitement about challenging the Cooperian tradition of crossing the color lines in seemingly non-racist narratives. This book examines how the “intellectual playground” created by the American Berger, Fergus, Larsen, O’Toole, Erdrich and Frazier and the Canadian Kroetsch, Kreiner, Ruffo and Hunter provides postcolonial biographies of such “slippery characters” as Sir William Johnson, Mary Jemison, May Dodd, and Archie Belaney/Grey Owl, or fictional ones such as Jack Crabb and Jeremy Sadness. The texts analyzed here pose questions related the construction of identity, fictive kinship and symbolic ethnicity, and the motivations and impulses underlying going/playing “Other.” They also entail broader questions, including the processes and implications of transculturation and the epistemology of race relations. Related findings of cross-cultural and narrative psychology are incorporated, offering an expansion on significant earlier cultural and literary criticism (Berkhofer, Vine and Philip Deloria, Torgovich, Gouldie, Huhndorf, Vizenor, Kawash and Wernitznig) with an interdisciplinary understanding of how whiteness as racial dominance operates in shifting social paradigms and how contemporary literary texts challenge this dominance.

FOREWORD by Prof. Márta Fülöp, Scientific Vice-Director of the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre of Natural Sciences at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

It is one of the most intriguing question for a psychologist what motives make some people who were brought up within a certain cultural tradition and constructed an identity within that framework to change it to another that is not familiar and that has no connection with their previous life context. The answer to this question can be searched from the perspective of different disciplines. The current book is an excellent example of bringing together literary scholarship, cultural studies and cultural psychology under the umbrella of American and Canadian studies. Judit Kádár handles these different perspectives in a highly professional way, integrating them into an exciting reading of personal fates and choices that at the same time help us to get closer to the delicate individual and cultural and societal processes that influenced and guided those who ’went Indian’.

This entry was posted in Books, Publications. Bookmark the permalink.