Prof. Thompson holds it down in NOLA

The week before Thanksgiving I traveled to New Orleans for the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. At an academic conference Ph.D’s and grad students meet to share their research and exchange ideas. The most common way to do this is by participating in a panel. Usually this consists of five people each with fifteen minutes to speak. The first four people will read an essay out loud and the fifth person will comment on the papers. Each panel has a theme and at any given moment there may be dozens of panels running simultaneously in different parts of the conference center.

I was invited to join a double-panel (ten people) called “Racial Circuits” and all the anthropologists were doing research on race in the United States. As you might guess most of these papers focused on Blacks and Whites as that is the dominant racial divide in this country, but two people each presented on Latinos. I was the only one discussing American Indians and, as I tried to bring out in this talk, race tends to mean something different for them.

Here’s my presentation. Its only fifteen minutes and it gives you an idea of what I do.

Watch the video and then in the comments section bellow I want you to engage the subject of my talk. You can bring up anything you like that seems relevant. Here are some questions to get you started:

-Why is the category of nation more significant than race for Indians?
-What is special about those certain circumstances when Indians do find race to be temporarily more significant than nation?
-From your point of view do you think that race and nation are basically the same thing, or do you believe that one is more important than the other? Justify your opinion.
-Why do you suppose Indians of some tribes use the word “Red” but those of other tribes do not?
-In this paper I suggest that one of the most important ways that people experience race in their lives is by talking about it. What are some other ways that race can be experienced?
-What are some other forms of “race talking” that you’ve observed from your own life?
-When people make jokes about race, what are they laughing at?
-Why do you think there is a pervasive stereotype that white people can’t dance? Explain this to me.

Advertisements

About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Prof. Thompson holds it down in NOLA

  1. Leave your comments here!

  2. Ashley Hodges says:

    Hello,
    Well great job delivering the speech to start off with. I was a little confused on the topic but maybe it is because it is in depth anthropology information. I understand you were talking about your time on the reservation and your experiences with the tribes.

    Why is the category of nation more significant than race for Indians?

    In my opinon I think nation is more important because it is uniquely identifying them within a group. Where as most American Indians do share similiar racial backgrounds, nowadays there tribes and nation is what “seperates” them.

    From your point of view do you think that race and nation are basically the same thing, or do you believe that one is more important than the other? Justify your opinion.

    I think race and nation are bascially the same, and I do not feel like one is more important than another. Nation is just a group of people who are identified by their culure, ethnicity, and language. On the other hand race is classifying people by their culture and ethinicity. When I read both of these definitions they are very similar. Both of these concepts are catergorizing people based on various factors. Neither one is more important because they are both doing the same thing.

    Why do you suppose Indians of some tribes use the word “Red” but those of other tribes do not?

    Some indians of some tribes might not use the term “Red” because they could be a older style tribe. They could have elders in the tribe who respect their people and are from a time they do not say that. They could have passed that on to their preceding generations. While other tribes could be more modern and comfortable with the term. For example, nowadays it is more acceptable to say black then African American. In my personal opinion, I think it is more respectful to say African American.

    In this paper I suggest that one of the most important ways that people experience race in their lives is by talking about it. What are some other ways that race can be experienced?

    I don’t know if this counts but my family is an old fashioned family. All of our family is white and we have never had anything else mixed in previous or contemporary generations. I feel like we need some diversity in our family so I have dated different ethnicities and religions to see what it was like. My family did not accept these “changes.” Some families are like that but I feel like it should not matter what a person looks like or their differences.

    What are some other forms of “race talking” that you’ve observed from your own life?
    (answered above)

    When people make jokes about race, what are they laughing at?
    Sterotypical Races. They think it is funny to deminier ones religion or ethinicity on account of they are different from them.

    Why do you think there is a pervasive stereotype that white people can’t dance?
    Well for one, I am white and I know how to dance. Second of all, I think it is because like African culture is always percieved doing tribal dances ansd such. And as far as other cultures go they always have some kind of obvious dances, for example the Irish have river dancing. But the Americans do not really have a signinificant amount of dancing background.

    This caught my attention while watching the video :
    When you said that the Indians were careful to choose who represents them in ads, commercials, and pagents because if they chose the right person they could have political or economic gain from having more common looking individuals presenting the information.

    did you feel intimidated by being a miniority

  3. Jessica-Rae Ziolkowski says:

    The part I found most interesting was about how American Indians view themselves more as nations/tribes than as a race. In American culture, we tend to lean more towards viewing race first. Unless you are a first generation immigrant, most people will categorize you based on race. So, it is interesting that even after all this time the American Indians will still focus more on their own tribes then link themselves together as one race.
    I also found it interesting that the tribes capitalized on the “more Indian looking” Indians for commercial profit. Of course it makes sense, who would want to go to an American Indian event to see a bunch of people who look just like you. But I also find it kind of sad. My grandmother was full Cherokee Indian but you can’t tell when you look at me. I never got to meet her but I have often wanted to find out more about her past. Whenever I tell someone I am ¼ Cherokee, they think I am just joking. I found the part of your paper where you talked about how “whiteness” or “blackness” trumps the Indian very interesting. Even the white/black Indians who wore all the right traditional markers were still not full accepted because they would not be the first chosen to work at the village shop, be in advertising, or even beauty pageants.
    What I got from this paper was that outside of the tribe the Indians did not focus on themselves as a race but as a nation. Once inside the tribe, race plays a much larger role in the commercialization of their “Indian-ness.” I found it interesting how you said that this type of race judgment can be traced back to colonial times. I have done some work in Post Colonial theory. The way you described it, it seemed like race was not so important to the Indian community except in the areas that outsiders pressured them. It seemed like the tribe would have picked any of their members to represent them but they chose the more classic “Indian looking” people to please their audience. I understand why they do it because it brings in more revenue. But, they are still allowing themselves to be controlled by the outside just like in colonial times. Only this time they are apart of the oppression. In fact they are their own oppressors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s