basso,_keith._indian_models_of_the_whiteman._potraits_of_the

basso,_keith._indian_models_of_the_whiteman._potraits_of_the...

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Portraits of "the Whiteman" Linguistic play and cultural symbols among the Western Apache Keith H. Basso Department ofAnthropology University ojArirona Illustrations by Vincent Craig CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
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/ Indian models of \ I "the Whiternan" I
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An Indian, who probably wasn't joking at all, once said, "The biggest of all Indian problems is the whiteman." Who can understand the whiteman? What makes him tick? How does he think and why does he think the way he does? Why does he talk so much? Why does he say one thing and do the opposite? Most important of all, how do you deal with him? Obviously, he is here to stay. Sometimes it seems like a hopeless task. -Harold Cardinal (The Unjust Society: The Tragedy of Canada's Indians) It has always been a great disappointment to Indian people that the humorous side of Indian life has not been emphasized by professed experts . . . Indians have found a humorous side to nearly every problem and the experiences of life have generally been so well defined through jokes and stories that they have become a thing in themselves . . . The more desperate the problem, the more humor is directed to describe it. -Vine Deloria, Jr. (Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto) Making sense of other people is never easy, and making sense of how other people make sense can be very difficult indeed. But, as Harold Cardinal observes, it is something that must be done, especially when the welfare of whole societies may be at stake. American Indians have been trying to make sense of Anglo-Americans for a long time, and today, as contact with their "biggest problem" grows increasingly fre- quent and progressively more intense, the understandings
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4 Portraits of "the Whiteman" they have reached - their conceptions of who 'the Whiteman' takes himself to be, how he construes his world, why he behaves as he does, and what, in the end, all this reveals about the sort of human creature he is - seem eminently deserving of ethnographic study. This essay is intended as a step in that direction. Whereas Whitemen are indisputably human beings, American Indian conceptions of 'the Whiteman' are inevi- tably cultural constructions. And wherever such construc- tions are found - among the Hopi, the Sioux, or, as in the case I shall discuss here, among the Western Apache -they are invariably drawn in ideal terms. Conforming to no Whiteman in particular, 'the Whiteman' is an abstraction, a complex of ideas and values, a little system of what Alfred Schutz called "taken-for-granted typifications and relevances" that Indian people use to confer order and intelligibility upon their experience with Anglo-Americans.' More specifically, 'the Whiteman' may be viewed as an unformalized model: a model of Whitemen (in the sense of defining who Whitemen are, how they contrast with other forms of humanity, and what, given these contrasts, they stand for and represent) and a model for dealing with White- men (in the sense of specifying how Whitemen typically conduct themselves, the circumstances under which particu-
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This note was uploaded on 10/12/2010 for the course ANTHRO 106 taught by Professor Harper during the Spring '08 term at UMass (Amherst).

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