- Purchase/rental options available:
This essay explores the nature and consequences of James Mooney’s literal pathologization of Native American religious belief in The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. I first situate Mooney’s fusion of Dance and disease within late nineteenth-century discourses of positivist science and closed subjectivity. I then briefly consider Nicholas Black Elk’s famous narrative of his own Great Vision, which offers an alternative, non-pathological perspective on Native religion and the idea that openness, connectedness, and vulnerability are constitutive of life. However, unlike many popular representations of American Indian spirituality, this vision authorizes neither a self-serving mysticism nor an easy holism; as in much recent philosophical and scientific work on extended networks of being, it instead pictures an uncertain, often fearful process in which susceptibility to the “outside” is both the condition of our existence and the becoming of our end.