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ERIC Number: EJ799699
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 27
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
Indigenous Ownership and the Emergence of U.S. Liberal Imperialism
Konkle, Maureen
American Indian Quarterly, v32 n3 p297-323 Sum 2008
Scholars have remarked upon the powerful--and frustrating, for analysis--abstractions of U.S. imperialism. The idea of empire itself is completely naturalized (thus the way of life) but also utterly depoliticized (thus the difficulty of recognizing it as a historical process comparable to others). By the 1830s the nation itself was understood as the site of an abstract world-historical conflict between savagery and civilization, a conflict in which civilization must and would prevail because God willed it and the continent required it. The conflict with indigenous people produced an imperial ideology that required a significant degree of abstraction because of the nature of relations with indigenous people. To make alliances, establish boundaries, and acquire land, Europeans made legal agreements, including treaties, that recognized indigenous ownership of land and therefore of political autonomy. When indigenous nations resisted selling land, recognition became a problem for expansionists, who then needed to neutralize indigenous ownership but in such a way that it could be reconciled with the dominant political ideology. To do this they turned to an emerging narrative of a world-historical conflict between civilization and savagery in the United States itself in which indigenous people, as savage hunters, by definition couldn't own property and therefore didn't form governments. The purpose of this essay is to show that the construct of "savagism and civilization" in U.S. culture has a political context--the necessity of denying the principle of indigenous ownership--and a political effect--the positing of an imperial ideology, the primary claim of which was that imperialism didn't exist as a historical process but was rather the unfolding of God's will. (Contains 57 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A