restricted access Preface

From: Red Matters

University of Pennsylvania Press colophon
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The title I've chosen for this book is neither original1 nor, strictlyspeaking , adequately descriptive ofwhat the reader will find here. Nonetheless, I've chosen RedMatters because red has not much mattered asyet, not in the aura of the postcolonial, gender and race, borderlands, cultural, or subaltern studies. Although there exists at present a solid body of criticism demonstrating the importance of Native American literature in its own right and in relation to ethnic, minority, or difference literature of a variety of kinds, Native materials still continue to be badly neglected. This is not the place to elaborate on just why this might be, although I do want to offer a few brief remarks. That Native people are largely ignored as part of the political and social fabric of American life results from a persistent inattention to them in the media. And media inattention , I believe, is the consequence of the fact that Native people, in particular the most traditional Native people, have generally avoided the sort of confrontational or performative politics on which the media thrive. That Native people and their cultural expression are ignored in the academy results from a lack of numbers, of both students and professors , on the part of Native people (and of others interested in Native culture). Exceptions to the first of mygeneralizations were provided by the takeover , in the late 1960s, of Alcatraz Island and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, and aswell bythe violent events at Wounded Knee in 1973, actions we shall consider further in the final chapter of this book. But Native American protest against treaty violations and broken promises did not usually take such visible and vocal forms in the last quarter of the twentieth century. As for academic mass, given the horrendous situation of Indian peoples in terms of health, jobs, and education, one can readily understand whyyoung persons, Native and not, interested in American Indians would choose to enter the fields ofpublic health, medicine , and nursing, substance abuse and employment counseling, early Preface childhood and adult education, rather than to go into cultural studies or literature. Surely the need for Indian health service workers and Indian rights' lawyers has been and probably continues to be easilyasgreat as the need for Indian text or performance explicators. But—to speak only to the academic issue—the number of students and the number of scholars working on Indian cultures and literatures does seem now to be increasing . For the short term they are still likely to be ignored or marginalized by most of those with hiring and curricular power, but for the long term I believe their prospects are bright. This is because, as Malcolm X famously said, the chickens will come home to roost: or, as, I am saying, you just can't understand America, more specifically, the United States,without coming to terms with the indigenous presence on this continent. Americans, as William CarlosWilliams lamented in 1925, "do not believe that they have sprung from anything : bone, thought, and action. . . .Their history is to them an enigma" (113). The Puritans, Williams insisted, "never realized the Indian in the least save as an unformed PURITAN" (113). In the same year, D. H. Lawrence wrote that "every continent has its own great spirit of place. Every people is polarized in some particular locality, which is home, the homeland " (5-6). For all the mystified nature of Lawrence's philosophy, one may take very seriously his contention that "the spirit of place is a great reality," and that, just as "China produces the Chinese and will go on doing so" (6), so, too, has America produced its own Native people and will go on doing so. This is something the Euramerican invader-settlers still have to recognize, as they must also recognize the need to come to terms with whatever "place" they—we—have not as yet befouled or destroyed . To state the obvious, Native people were here first, and, for all that they suffered near genocide, they have not and will not vanish. Despite the appalling conditions under which Native people continue to live as a consequence of ongoing domestic imperialism, it is a matter of fact not prognostication to saythat they are going to persevere and thrive. That means that Native literature and culture will also thrive and in its thriving bring forth an adequate cohort of critics to provide appropriate critical response. Again, these developments seem to me currently very much in active progress. Paul Gilroy has...


pdf

Subject Headings

  • Indian literature -- United States -- History and criticism
  • American literature -- Indian authors -- History and criticism
  • Indians of North America -- Intellectual life.
  • Indians of North America -- Historiography.
  • Indians in literature.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access