(S)aged by Culture by Philipp Kneis

By Philipp Kneis

Colonization has imposed drastic alterations on indigenous societies in North the United States. This method has reverberated via cultural conceptions and structures of social roles, rather affecting the jobs of elders and the previous. This e-book charts those adjustments via examining representations of previous age in American Indian literature. In evaluating conventional tales with modern works, the analytical concentration lies on setting up what advancements will be saw within the conceptualizing of previous age as seen in representations of social, political and cultural roles, similar to that of the sage. Authors mentioned comprise Sherman Alexie, Chrystos, Louise Erdrich, Janet Campbell Hale, N. Scott Momaday, Simon Ortiz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Lucy Tapahonso, Velma Wallis, and James Welch.

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Jaimes-Guerrero 2003: 59) This prioritizing of community values over those of the individual has been understood as being at odds with the demands of a highly individualized Western society. Throughout the history of colonialism, cultural change has been imposed through government policies, especially boarding schools, in which Indians were made into individuals (Pfister 2004: 11; Churchill 2004), a policy seen as necessary precisely because of a difference in how Native societies worked vis-à-vis Western society: … the idea that American “individuals” are culturally made and not simply born would have been no news to many Natives in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who were the subjects of crusades mounted by White reformers and schools to “individualize” them.

With the caveat that his suggested models of directedness and conformity are mere abstractions (Riesman [1950] 2001: 29) of personality types, and that “there can be no such thing as a society or a person wholly dependent on tradition-direction, inner-direction or other-direction” (30), such models nevertheless prove suitable to characterize specifically the nature of the changes affecting tribal and other traditional societies. Tradition-directed societies in Riesman’s reading rely on a relatively unchanging social order, with a high degree of conformity by the individual (11) to that order.

Strongest criticism is brought towards the concept of traditiondirection, which is oftentimes seen as a simplification of Medieval European society (McLaughlin 2001: 13; Palmer 1990: 22), even though Riesman clearly points out that his model is a deliberate simplification in order to describe more general trends (Riesman [1950] 2001: 29). Riesman’s model of inner-directedness can be understood as related to Weber’s (similarly generalizing) concept of the Protestant ethic (Palmer 1990: 22). Riesman’s sociological analysis furthermore supports trends already observed by de Tocqueville (Palmer 1990).

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