20 May 2013

kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks did a review of The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects by Renée L. Bergland. I am so getting a copy of this, but in the meantime, if you have any interest in pop culture, ghosts, cross-culture ghosts, American History vs Indigenous peoples, and so on (and I daresay the metaphor could easily be extended to the centuries of being haunted by our past as a slave-owning country, as well), at the very least, read the review.

From the Amazon description:
Although spectral Indians appear with startling frequency in US literary works, until now the implications of describing them as ghosts have not been thoroughly investigated. In the first years of nationhood, Philip Freneau and Sarah Wentworth Morton peopled their works with Indian phantoms, as did Charles Brocken Brown, Washington Irving, Samuel Woodworth, Lydia Maria Child, James Fenimore Cooper, William Apess, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others who followed. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Native American ghosts figured prominently in speeches attributed to Chief Seattle, Black Elk, and Kicking Bear. Today, Stephen King and Leslie Marmon Silko plot best-selling novels around ghostly Indians and haunted Indian burial grounds.

Renee L. Bergland argues that representing Indians as ghosts internalizes them as ghostly figures within the white imagination. Spectralization allows white Americans to construct a concept of American nationhood haunted by Native Americans, in which Indians become sharers in an idealized national imagination. However, the problems of spectralization are clear, since the discourse questions the very nationalism it constructs. Indians who are transformed into ghosts cannot be buried or evaded, and the specter of their forced disappearance haunts the American imagination. Indian ghosts personify national guilt and horror, as well as national pride and pleasure. Bergland tells the story of a terrifying and triumphant American aesthetic that repeatedly transforms horror into glory, national dishonor into national pride.

And a bit of quote from Rushthatspeaks:

Why the change in the American ghost [from the European ghost]? Well, partly because of the rise of the modern scientific method, and the development of ways to test the empirical validity of the supernatural. And partly because colonists in the Americas could not take their ancestors with them, moving from a built-up landscape full of folklore and traditions they understood to a landscape they could not see as fully settled, full of folklore and traditions they did not know. And partly because of the rise of interiority and subjectivity as useful societal concepts, and the intersection of interiority and subjectivity with the newly-minted American Dream. Bergland is literally the first writer I have seen mention that the United States began as a colonized country and became a colonial power, and that the second required systematic repression of the knowledge of what it had been like to be the first.

In short, ghosts represent that which has been forgotten/ignored (ie a crime), and call out for justice -- and the American history is one long history of injustices, so it's no surprise we'd have a ton of ghosts. The crux lays in the fact that a lot of our ghosts are still also very much alive, too, where the crime lies in actively repressing a past (and ongoing injustice).

I can't explain it all that well, but there's much food for thought. So first go read the review and then go buy the book.


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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