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  • Alternative Contact: Indigeneity, Globalism, and American Studies ed. by Paul Lai and Lindsey Claire Smith
  • Susan Savage Lee
Paul Lai and Lindsey Claire Smith, eds. Alternative Contact: Indigeneity, Globalism, and American Studies. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. 390 pp. Paper, $30.00.

In Alternative Contact, Paul Lai and Lindsey Claire Smith have compiled a volume that draws attention to Indigeneity across geographical borders as well as the compartmentalized disciplines of academia. The [End Page 263] contributors to this volume seek to challenge the boundaries of their own fields of specialization such as American, ethnic, Indigenous, Asian American, and postcolonial studies by emphasizing "alternative contact," or contact apart from narratives heavily centered upon European/ Indigenous binaries. By "search[ing] for that renewal of thought 'from and for the margins' of Indigenous spaces" (3), the contributors make possible a transnational approach, with Indigeneity as its main perspective. Having removed the "first contact" narratives as the traditional opening into their argument, the authors off er academics in a variety of disciplines an opportunity for the reconsideration of such loaded terms as "imperialism" and "globalism."

The impetus for Alternative Contact is the seemingly inherent connection between Indigeneity and the dominant culture so apparent in contemporary scholarship, particularly when investigating the eff ects of colonization and modernization. However, the contributors to this work suggest that by removing the binary of dominant/marginalized and focusing instead on the areas of alternative contact between Indigenous peoples, new critical possibilities emerge for scholarship as well as political activism. At the same time, by analyzing the intricacies of alternative contact, scholars can take these new perspectives and reapply them to the dominant/marginalized argument, thus complicating previous scholarship pertaining to Indigenous peoples. The authors achieve their goals in a variety of ways, but key to their argument is the connection between politics, race, law, identity, and economics at once, rather than unpacking one field at the expense of another.

Judy Rohrer, for example, in "Attacking Trust: Hawai'i as a Crossroads and Kamehameha Schools in the Crosshairs," explores how racial identity becomes a legal problem through the concept of a "color-blind" ideology. The color-blind ideology in question pertains to the whites (haoles) living in Hawai'i who desire to send their children to the Kamehameha Schools, schools that are only meant for the Kanaka Maoli. According to Rohrer, when white parents turned to lawsuits as a means of gaining entry into the Indigenous schools, they explained that the Kanaka Maoli were ignoring what it means to be Hawaiian by employing "segregationist" tactics. The reality of the situation involves many years of discrimination against the Kanaka Maoli by whites, thus making it necessary for Indigenous Hawaiians to initiate their own schools in order for their children to have the same opportunities as white children. [End Page 264] Rohrer suggests that the lawsuits against the Kamehameha Schools are the most recent endeavor by whites to "erase" or "vanish" Indigenous culture. Furthermore, the color-blind ideology discussed in Rohrer's essay can be applied to other Indigenous people outside of Hawai'i whose cultural survivance faces stagnation because of a pejorative ideology masked in positivist terms.

Andrea Smith's "Decolonization in Unexpected Places: Native Evangelicism and the Rearticulation of Mission" examines an often-discussed topic through a new lens: the missionization of Native peoples. Smith recognizes that Indigenous people worldwide have suff ered the eff ects of missionization; however, many Native Americans in the United States turn to evangelicism as a means of decolonization. Because of this, Smith positions Native evangelicals as theorists rather than as objects of study in order to produce an ethnography that accounts for the advantages and pitfalls of Native evangelical communities. In this way, Smith, much like the other contributors to this volume, approaches topics such as decolonization and Native "authenticity" by avoiding overly simplistic binaries.

JoAnna Poblete Cross's "Bridging Indigenous and Immigrant Struggles: A Case Study of American Samoa" provides a well-needed crossover between Indigenous and Asian American studies. Poblete Cross links an Asian immigrant struggle with Indigenous Samoans through the topic of labor. While Poblete Cross recognizes that the intent of each group diff ers, she gracefully...


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