- Paperback: 242 pages
- Publisher: The Red Sea Press, Inc. (December 2, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1569022453
- ISBN-13: 978-1569022450
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,044,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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From A Red Zone: Critical Perspectives on Race, Politics & Culture
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About the Author
Patricia Penn Hilden is Professor of Native American History and Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She has published several works about gender, race, and politics, most recently the semi-autobiographical When Nickels Were Indians (Smithsonian Institution Press).
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Before this period of success, while still a graduate student, Hilden was in a formidable public battle with a leading white feminist historian, Joan Scott, over an article Scott co-authored with Louise Tilly in 1975. As broadening as Hilden's critique may have been, it too had its limits, for she never once critiqued the absence of race in Scott and Tilly's analysis. Nor did she discuss race in her critique of Brian Harrison and James McMillan's work. In fact, race as an analytic category does not arrive in Hilden's own work until 1995.
In 1995 Hilden published an autobiography, "When Nickels Were Indians," that met with mixed reviews. In 1999 Alan Velie writes that the book is largely unconvincing on important themes and at times even annoying (yet astute in other areas and worth reading):
...identity is for most Indians involved with the life of a particular tribe. Although Hilden was raised knowing the history of the Nez Perce, she never gets around to visiting them or taking part in any of their ceremonies. The result is a sort of pallid pan-Indianness which she fails to make convincing to the reader, and perhaps to herself... neither [William] Penn nor [Patricia] Hilden is very convincing about what they consider Indian culture to be.
In 1998 Devon Mihesuah writes:
...in the 1970s [Hilden] did not claim to be Nez Perce when applying for an Office of Economic Opportunity position because she looks phenotypically white and was fearful that people might mistake her for a wannabe. Her repeated references to the "shovel nature" of her teeth (a feature that she claims was "that era's" [1950-1960s?] 'scientific' signifiers of "Native blood") and to her cheekbones (are we to assume they are high?) illustrate her apparent need to convince readers that she does have a tribal connection. Okazawa-Rey argues that when light-skinned Black women degrade darker-skinned Black women their "identification with the racist oppressors is complete." And this may be true for Indians in some cases...
Gerald Vizenor in 1998:
The remarkable measures of varionative identities by rumor and allusive documents, and the rich mixture of native names, are the absence, not a presence of natives in "All My Sins Are Relatives" and "When Nickels Were Indians." The metaphors, and the curious ambiguities of "some records" are incommensurable as sources of native identities. These are not native sessions or situations; rather, the cursive subordination of an Indian presence to the abetment of names in government documents.
These questions raised by "When Nickels" regarding Hilden's Indian ancestry does not necessarily mean she should not write about Native American issues or that she can't contribute to "red feminist" thought. Rather, what would have been interesting to read in "From a Red Zone" is Hilden's intellectual skill applied to a systematic, non-sarcastic excavation of the very dynamics that make "rumors and allusive documents" the very stuff of some Northern Indians' identities. How can ambiguously Indian people still be a part of a revolutionary movement? Rather than insisting one is unquestionably Indian and pointing an accusatory finger at someone else, explaining the social and psychic machinery at work in this common situation would be immensely more helpful. (Ward Churchill, for example, is in a similar spot.) Auto-analysis in these thorny situations always make the strongest kind of scholarship.
Hilden's decision to not address in "From a Red Zone" the contentious issues raised in "When Nickels," specifically her self-expressed discomfort around full-bloods, tenuous tribal affiliation, her late appropriation of a public Indian identity, and her relationship to these issues as a middle class, fully-tenured, phenotypically white woman, (as she describes herself) does not advance rigorous Native American Studies scholarship out of the impasse it is caught in on these issues.
Hilden's `discourse of condescension' in "From a Red Zone" (a reviewer of "When Nickels" also criticizes) goes back a long way, and as a rhetorical strategy has likely been successful in the illusion of obliterating her opponent. Condescension may be a good weapon when arguing against haughty, powerful, white men, yet its efficacy is questionable when used to flog poor people of color; rather it becomes a familiar form of elitist abuse as evident in Chapter 5, "How the Border Lies."
There is a serious problem with applying white Marxist analyses to communities of color, a point systematically argued by a number of black and Native American scholars. The chapter "Race for Sale" employs a problematic understanding of race, and in the context of African cultural exhibits, winds up collapsing black and white consumers as `the same.' This chapter doesn't go far enough to engage the important interventions made by Black Studies scholars on race as it exceeds economic explanations.
Hilden's deep engagement with historical materialism and long history of writing about European class/gender issues would make a sustained comparative analysis of the racialized (largely) lumpen location of American Indians in the U.S., an interesting and perhaps more fruitful project.
Hilden has already declared in "When Nickels Were Indians" that she does not mind attacking and bullying people she disagrees with, but constructive criticism is different from scathing indictments and would go a long way towards building a social movement.