IDEOLOGY AND DISCOURSE ABOUT INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Making sense of The Other
As we have seen, meeting of Old and New Worlds was cultural and ideological as
well as material: crucial how people thought, spoke, and wrote about each other
Discover and conquest in Americas opened up European intellectual horizons
tremendously: knowledge of how great the world was and the variety of people in
Some expansion as contact with Africa and indirectly with Asia, then tremendous change
Indigenous Americans became prime examples of The Other, people seen as
radically different. Alterity or radical otherness.
Colonists had to make sense of the people they saw, to understand them.
Not necessarily, dispassionate, objective, or disinterested
Elaborated ideologies or discourses to justify conquest and domination, often
Also developed ideas of selves as British or French or Spanish in distinction,
by contrast with Indians. Sometimes Indians mere foil, stick figure for ideas
that really about self
Some theorists see such ideas as almost always being implicated in or as
rationalizations for domination
Most famous work, by Edward Said, Orientalism, study of European discourses
about Middle East, about distorted and systematic set of ideas about Arabs
. A dicourse of this sort is stronger and more coherent than simple
stereotype. Found throughout literary and historical works about region. By
extension, all writings about others.
But study of such discourses tricky. Problem of sampling: if range
of ideas and opinions, depends what take as typical of rest. Also whether prove or just
assume that always motivated by desire to dominate. Colley (in recommended
reading) suggests that many of orientalist ideas about Middle East developed
before European domination and expansion, in large part as reaction to feeling
threatened by Barbary pirates and others.
Also, question of whether always made up ideas out of whole cloth, totally
imposed them, or whether interpretation of what encountered, construction
rather than complete fabrication