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A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians

Thomas Biolsi (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4051-8288-1
592 pages
March 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians (1405182881) cover image
The status of American Indians has long been rooted in a view of Indians as members of indigenous polities with distinct cultures. Often, these cultures have been characterized by dominant colonial authorities as 'savage' or 'primitive,' and it is the discipline of anthropology that, willingly and wittingly, or not, helped to make the idea of 'the primitive' into a social reality. Consequently, the 'tribal slot' inhabited by American Indians - with both its benefits and its oppressions - is difficult to imagine without the discipline of anthropology.
A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians contains 27 original contributions by leading scholars who work actively as researchers in American Indian communities, or on the topic of American Indians. The book summarizes the state of anthropological knowledge of Indian peoples, as well as the history that got us to this point.
Treated here is the full range of American Indian anthropology: from ecological and political-economic questions to topics concerning religion, language, and expressive culture. Each chapter provides definitive coverage of its topic while situating ethnographic and ethnohistorical data in a broader framework. This framework includes the linked histories of American Indians and anthropology, the role of continued native resistance in changing both the situation of Indian people and the content of anthropology, and the potential role of anthropology in an anti-colonial project that speaks to the pressing concerns of contemporary Indians.
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Synposis of Contents.

Notes on Contributors.

Introduction: What is the 'Anthropology' of 'American Indians'?: Thomas Biolsi (University of California, Berkeley).

Part I: Environments and Populations:.

1. Political and Historical Ecologies: Kenneth M. Ames (Portland State University).

2. Historical Demography: Russell Thornton (University of California, Los Angeles).

Part II: Political, Social, and Economic Organization:.

3. Women and Men: Martha C. Knack (University of Nevada, Las Vegas).

4. Politics: Loretta Fowler (University of Oklahoma).

5. Tribal or Native Law: Bruce Granville Miller (University of British Columbia).

6. Culture and Reservation Economies: Kathleen Pickering (Colorado State University).

Part III: Knowledge and Expressive Culture:.

7. Knowledge Systems: Eugene S. Hunn (University of Washington, Seattle).

8. Oral Traditions: Rodney Frey (University of Idaho).

9. Religion: Raymond Bucko (Creighton University).

10. Music: Luke Eric Lassiter (Marshall University).

11. Art: Rebecca J. Dobkins (Willamette University).

Part IV: Colonialism, Native Sovereignty, Law, and Policy:.

12. Political and Legal Status ("Lower 48" States): Thomas Biolsi (University of California, Berkeley).

13. Political and Legal Status (Alaska): Caroline L. Brown (University of Chicago).

14. Federal Indian Policy and Anthropology: George Pierre Castile (Whitman College).

15. Contemporary Globalization and Tribal Sovereignty: Randel D. Hanson (Arizona State University).

16. Treaty Rights: Larry Nesper (University of Wisconsin, Madison).

17. Education: Alice Littlefield (Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant).

Part V: Cultural Politics and the Colonial Situation:.

18. Representational Practices: Pauline Turner Strong (University of Texas, Austin).

19. The Politics of Native Culture: Kirk Dombrowski (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY).

20. Cultural Appropriation: Tressa Berman (Independent Curator; Affliated Scholar, Women’s Leadership Institute at Mills College; and Research Associate, California Academy of Sciences).

21. Community Healing and Cultural Citizenship: Renya K. Ramirez (University of California, Santa Cruz).

22. Native Hawai‘ians: Cari Costanzo Kapur (Stanford University).

Part VI: Anthropological Method and Postcolonial Practice:.

23. Ethnography: Peter Whiteley (American Museum of Natural History, New York).

24. Beyond “Applied” Anthropology: Les W. Field (University of New Mexico).

25. Linguistic Anthropology: James Collins (University at Albany, SUNY).

26. Visual Anthropology: Harald E. L. Prins (Kansas State University).

27. Archaeology: Larry J. Zimmerman (Minnesota Historical Society).


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Thomas Biolsi is Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Among his publications are Deadliest Enemies: Law and Race Relations on and Off Rosebud Reservation (2007/2001), Indians and Anthropologists: Vine Deloria, Jr., and the Critique of Anthropology (edited with Larry Zimmerman, 1997), and Organizing the Lakota: The Political Economy of the New Deal on Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations (1992).
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  • Surveys the full range of American Indian anthropology: from ecological and political-economic questions to topics concerning religion, language, and expressive culture
  • Each chapter provides definitive coverage of its topic, as well as situating ethnographic and ethnohistorical data into larger frameworks
  • Explores anthropology’s contribution to knowledge, its historic and ongoing complicities with colonialism, and its political and ethical obligations toward the people 'studied'
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"Highly recommended."

"Biolsi has produced a rich and comprehensive overview of the field by drawing on senior figures and younger scholars, academics and public intellectuals, and Native and non-Native voices. This volume is required reading for anyone wishing to enter, revisit, or advance the practice of Native American anthropology."
Philip Deloria, University of Michigan

"This invaluable volume offers the perspectives of individuals whose intellectual, social, emotional, and pragmatic commitment to better understanding our world have earned the respect and attention of Native and non-Native audiences."
Tsianina Lomawaima, University of Arizona

"This is a sterling compilation, expertly edited, that interrogates the dynamic and often contentious relationship between indigenous peoples and anthropologists."
David Wilkins, University of Minnesota

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