The Limits of Multiculturalism: Interrogating the Origins of American Anthropology
In the early nineteenth century, the profession of American anthropology emerged as European Americans James Fenimore Cooper and Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, among others, began to make a living by studying the "Indian." Less well known are the AmerIndians who, at that time, were writing and publishing ethnographic accounts of their own people. By bringing to the fore this literature of autoethnography and revealing its role in the forming of anthropology as we know it, this book searches out -- and shakes -- the foundations of American cultural studies.
Scott Michaelsen shows cultural criticism to be at an impasse, trapped by tradition even in its attempts to get beyond tradition. With this dilemma in mind, he takes us back to anthropology's nineteenth-century roots to show us a network of nearly unknown AmerIndian anthropological writers -- David Cusick, Jane Johnston, William Apess, Ely S. Parker, Peter Jones, George Copway, and John Rollin Ridge -- working contemporaneously with the major white anthropologists who wrote on indian topics. Michaelsen tests present-day theses about difference in light of these AmerIndian voices and concludes that multiculturalism never will locate critical differences from Western or white writing, since these traditions are inextricably bound together.
The Limits of Multiculturalism is a first step in finding the proper anthropological grounds for questions about cultures in the Americas, and in coming to terms with the co-invention of anthropology by AmerIndians -- with the fact that Indian voices are lodged at the heart of anthropology.
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