Ambivalence and Contradiction in Colonial Texts: Cases from the Pueblos, 1900

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Ambivalence and contradiction in the relationships between colonizer and colonized have received scant attention. I will use two theoretical concepts – “ambivalence” and “contradiction” – to account for the construction of three text sets, each consisting of two texts mutually opposed to each other. The first set consists of George Wharton James’ (1908) What The White Race May Learn from the Indian, opposed by Commissioner of Indian Affairs George Manypenny’s (1890) report to Congress, in which he outlined and justified the U.S. Government’s “forced acculturation” policy. The second consists of Walter Hough’s (1898) The Moki Snake Dance, published by the Santa Fe Railway’s Passenger Department, opposed by a set of depositions, affidavits, and letters collected by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1915 and 1920. The third consists of two series of photographs and paintings by A.C. Vroman (1890-1900) and Jo Mora (1904-5), opposed by several texts produced by ethnographer J.W. Fewkes. The oppositional components of these text sets reflect what post-colonial theorist Anne McClintock, referencing Tom Nairn, sites as the contradiction between nostalgia for a bygone era and the progressive soughing off of the past represented in nationalism and industrialization. This Janus-like ambivalence is what Maurice Godelier calls the “ideel element” which gives social relations their significance. In the cases under review here, these social relations are those between American colonizers and the Puebloan people of the Borderlands, in the 1890s recently acquired in the war with Mexico. I suggest that colonization had to be rationalized in production relationships, and that these production relationships manifested nostalgia in contradistinction to those representing the increasingly industrializing future. It is these production relationships that framed and motivation the construction of ambivalent and contradictory ideology reflected in these text sets.


Keywords: Ambivalence, Contradiction, Colonial Texts, Text Sets, Pueblo Indians, Early 20th Century
Stream: Language, Linguistics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. Richard O. Clemmer

Professor of Anthroplogy, Department of Anthropology, University of Denver
Denver, CO, USA

Earlier work focused on Native North American groups, particularly Hopi and Shoshone. Recent publications include “’The Legal effect of the Judgment…….’: Indian Land Claims, Ecological Anthropology, Social Impact Assessment, and the Public Domain.” Human Organization 63(3):334-45 (2004); “Motifs with Messages:Ceramic Objects as forms of Communication. Semiotica 147:219-140 (2003); and “Resistance and the Revitalization of Anthropologists: A New Perspective on Cultural Change and Resistance.” PP. 213-247 in Dell H. Hymes, ed. Reinventing Anthropology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press (1999). Theoretical foci are on environmental anthropology; tradition and modernity; objects, signs and communication; collective and cultural human rights; dissent, rebellion and revitalization within religous contexts. Recent work engages indigenous self-determination; regionalization; and the relationship of praxis to representation in the creation of new structures of material conditions. Recent work includes analyzing texts generated by Euro-centric modernists and anti-modernists.

Ref: H08P0537