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The Limits of Multiculturalism

Interrogating the Origins of American Anthropology

1999
Author:

Scott Michaelsen

The Limits of Multiculturalism

Traces anthropology’s Native American roots.

In the early nineteenth century, the profession of American anthropology emerged as European Americans 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, asserting the importance of the Indian voices to the discipline.

The Limits of Multiculturalism makes many interesting and perceptive observations on multicultural viewpoints and politics as well as on the early foundations of anthropology as a profession.

Great Plains Quarterly

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.

The Limits of Multiculturalism

Scott Michaelsen is assistant professor of English at Michigan State University. He is coeditor (with David Johnson) of Border Theory: The Limits of Cultural Politics (Minnesota, 1997).

The Limits of Multiculturalism

The Limits of Multiculturalism makes many interesting and perceptive observations on multicultural viewpoints and politics as well as on the early foundations of anthropology as a profession.

Great Plains Quarterly

“The Limits of Multiculturalism offers a persuasive critique of multiculturalism as it has emerged in the United States. It is most valuable and original in its treatment of relatively unkown Native American writers of mid-century who had diverse and fascinating independent careers as organic intellectuals, so to speak, but who were also paired and partnered with pioneering White anthropologists and interpreters of Native American experience.” George Marcus, Rice University

The Limits of Multiculturalism makes two crucial efforts that could potentially alter the shape of Native American literary criticism. First, Michaelsen carefully examines and contextualizes the anthropological prose written not just about but by American Indians during the historical period when anthropology became constituted as a distinct field-roughly the 1820s to the 1860s. Second, the book takes up this body of writing to critique ideas that have been fundamental to the practice of Native American studies in scholarship and in the classroom. What makes The Limits of Multiculturalism compelling is...the way the book advances through sustained, nuanced readings of antebellum texts. Scholars will be impressed by the complexity with which [Michaelsen] engages the work of Apess, Cusick, Jane Johnston, Ely S. Parker, Peter Jones, George Copway, and John Rollin Ridge.

Studies in American Indian Literature

The Limits of Multiculturalism

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Prolegomenon

Groundwork: The Limits of Multiculturalism
1. Positions, Ex-Positions, Dis-Positions Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Jane Johnston, David Cusick
2. Destructuring Whiteness: Color, Animality, Hierarchy William Apess, James Fenimore Cooper, Lewis Henry Morgan
3. Amerindian Voice(s) in Ethnography Ely S. Parker, Lewis Henry Morgan
4. Methodists and Method: Conversion and Representation Peter Jones, George Copway, James Fenimore Cooper, Maungwudaus
5. Borders of Anthropology, History, and Science John Rollin Ridge, Samuel Morton, William Hickling Prescott

Coda
Anthropology and Archaeo-logicality
John Lloyd Stephens, Benjamin Moore Norman

Notes
References
Index