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The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present Paperback – February 12, 1979

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0394727943 ISBN-10: 0394727940 Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (February 12, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394727940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394727943
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #768,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Elijah Kuan Wong on May 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Robert Berkhofer's "The White Man's Indian" is an invaluable text that compliments the ongoing ethnic studies/post-colonial studies canon excellently. Berkhofer enters the archival images that we as Americans have of The Indian (in its dualistic Good/Bad Native model), to deconstruct it, and to ultimately reveal the historical opportunities and reasons why there was a national production of such images in the first place. In many ways, Berkhoker's "The White Man's Indian" is a perfect companion to Edward Said's seminal text "Orientalism" in that what each aims to do is not to rest on simply recognizing stereotypes ("The Native", "The Oriental"), but to situate The Image in its historical socio-economic context, and to have critiques of The Image lead us deeper into the complexities of national hegemonic (re)productions of power.
Berkhofer does not just repeat ad nauseum, "This is a stereotype", "That is a stereotype", etc. Instead, he looks at how the polarization of peoples into Old World and New World affected whole schools of thought and culture, like Evolutionism, Anthropology, and Christian theories of human genealogy.
I would say that this text is alligned with the growing body of literature and scholarship that comes out of post-colonial critiques of the first-world's narcissistic (and violent) stranglehold on the production of self-aggrandizing myth making. And so, for contributing sorely needed scholarship that counter-pushes against our internalized presuppositions of "The Native" - deriving somewhere between Disney's Pochahontas and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - "The White Man's Indian" should be read by anyone who has a stake in resisting neocolonialism - which is to say, everyone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In The White Man's Indian, Robert Berkhofer takes the idea of "indianness" and traces it's origins throughout the European conquest, rise to dominance of North America and through much of the twentieth century. One of his key contributions is his argument that the term "Indian" was used as a tool of domination. On p. 29 Berkhofer writes, “The Indian was judged by what Whites were not. Change toward what Whites were made him ipso facto less Indian.” Thus, this generalization of a diverse people group aided the Euro-American policy of assimilation. The book also contains a very useful account of how the meaning of "Indian" has changed and been used for different purposes through out the history of the United States.
In all I highly recommend this book as an eye opening look at the destructive power of words and generalizations. It is a must read for anyone interested in ethnohistory, minority studies and I would also argue (though space does not allow me to elaborate) that it is also a must read for anyone interested in environmental history.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful By kari goglin on June 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
berkhofer does a good job explaining the history of the image that caucasian's have of the native american. the only drawback is that it was written 23 years ago and the reader must keep reminding themselves of this fact when faced with outdated material concerning public opinion and/or lack of scholarly developments and discoveries of native society.
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Format: Paperback
Bob Berkhofer's White Man's Indian is still such an important work, even decades after it was published. This groundbreaking book established the ways in which a dominant culture invented, shaped, and used the image of the Indian in order to define White values and civilization in contrast to Indian "savagery."

"'the essence of the White image of the Indian has been the definition of Native Americans in fact and fancy as a separate and single other. Whether evaluated as noble or ignoble, whether seen as exotic or downgraded, the Indian as an image was always alien to the White."
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The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present
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