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Deconstructing the So-Called "Indian",
This review is from: The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present (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.