Reconstructing the Native South: American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause

Reconstructing the Native South: American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause

Reconstructing the Native South: American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause

Reconstructing the Native South: American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause

Synopsis

In Reconstructing the Native South, Melanie Benson Taylor examines the diverse body of Native American literature in the contemporary U.S. South--literature written by the descendants of tribes who evaded Removal and have maintained ties with their southeastern homelands. In so doing Taylor advances a provocative, even counterintuitive claim: that the U.S. South and its Native American survivors have far more in common than mere geographical proximity. Both cultures have long been haunted by separate histories of loss and nostalgia, Taylor contends, and the moments when those experiences converge in explicit and startling ways have yet to be investigated by scholars. These convergences often bear the scars of protracted colonial antagonism, appropriation, and segregation, and they share preoccupations with land, sovereignty, tradition, dispossession, subjugation, purity, and violence.

Taylor poses difficult questions in this work. In the aftermath of Removal and colonial devastation, what remains--for Native and non-Native southerners--to be recovered? Is it acceptable to identify an Indian "lost cause"? Is a deep sense of hybridity and intercultural affiliation the only coherent way forward, both for the New South and for its oldest inhabitants? And in these newly entangled, postcolonial environments, has global capitalism emerged as the new enemy for the twenty-first century? Reconstructing the Native South is a compellingly original work that contributes to conversations in Native American, southern, and transnational American studies.

Excerpt

Only at the moment when Lee handed Grant his sword
was the Confederacy born.

— Robert Penn Warren, The Legacy of the Civil War (1961)

…Indians, a word that exists only with the idea of
the discovery that created the modern world…

— Paul Chaat Smith, Everything You Know
about Indians Is Wrong (2009)

At the heart of this book is a challenging claim: that the biracial U.S. South and its Native American survivors have far more in common than geographical proximity. It is not difficult to recognize the myriad ways that both groups are haunted by their own private, separate histories of sweeping loss and crippling nostalgia, but we have yet to investigate the moments when the experience, rhetoric, and effects of such histories converge in explicit and startling ways. Part of this oversight rests in persistently anachronistic notions about both groups: these narratives suppose that Indians are relics preserved in the ether of a tragic colonial past and that the South has yet to fully transcend the residues of slavery, segregation, and its biracial legacy. in the contemporary literature of the U.S. South, however, Native and non-Native southerners have arrived at a common meeting place: that very fixation on storied pasts and insurmountable loss forms a shared Lost Cause more present, prescient, and uncanny than we might imagine. No longer the tragic and anachronistic . . .

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