Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing about American Indians. (Book Reviews: Method)

Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing about American Indians. (Book Reviews: Method)

Article excerpt

MIHESUH, DEVON A. (ed.). Natives and academics: researching and writing about American Indians. xii, 212 pp., bibliogrs. London, Lincoln: Univ. Nebraska Press, 1998. [pounds sterling]14.00 (paper)

This collection of essays is not new; it is a revision of an anthology which originally appeared as the Winter 1996 special issue of the American Indian Quarterly, 'Writing about (writing about) American Indians'. Eleven authors, all of them Native Americans in the narrower sense (and therefore US citizens), have contributed essays, though both the editor and Angela Cavender Wilson have two items in this collection. Seven of the authors are women. Five authors are 'Sioux' by heritage (including Paula Gunn Allen, who has concentrated in her published work more on the expression of her Laguna Keresan Pueblo heritage), two are Seminole, two (including the editor) are Choctaw, one is Chippewa, and one is a member of Isleta Pueblo. Notable absences are any Inuit or Alaskan Voices, any contributions from groups from the East Coast (including the Iroquoian groups), and any essays from members of Native Californian or Northwestern tribes or of smaller tribes anywhere. As far as the coverage of this book goes, the Fir st Nations members in Canada and Native people south of the Rio Grande barely rate a mention.

This restricted constituency of Native scholarship from which the editor has drawn her contributions (and it is one which need not have been so circumscribed) is paralleled by the narrowness of focus of much of the book in general. Mihesuah's concern is to gather Native scholars' impressions of the way in which their peoples are portrayed - and are all too often condescended to as the Other - in writing in social sciences and in some of the humanities. The fields of educational and historical writing are especially well explored here, and literature and anthropology are also examined; in contrast, there are no examinations of some of the fraught ethical questions which touch on conducting and writing up American Indian linguistics research. The essays take up 199 pages; the remainder provide details about the contributors and an index (pp. 205-13).

The general theme, namely that ignorance about American Indians has persisted in academia because of non-Indian academics' frequent refusal to concede that, despite their myriad qualifications, they may not know as much about Indian identity as Indians do, is clear enough in most of the essays, and to this extent there is little contrastive (let alone combative) dialogue between the viewpoints of the several authors. …

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