NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ817357
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 20
ISSN: ISSN-0730-3238
The Violence of Collection: "Indian Killer"'s Archives
Dean, Janet
Studies in American Indian Literatures, v20 n3 p29-51 Fall 2008
At the close of Sherman Alexie's "Indian Killer," in a final chapter titled "Creation Story," a killer carries a backpack containing, among other things, "dozens of owl feathers, a scrapbook, and two bloody scalps in a plastic bag." Readers schooled in the psychopathologies of real and fictional serial killers will be familiar with the detail: body parts or other "trophies" (to use this killer's term) often serve to memorialize a murderer's acts. That the tokens of violence here are scalps and owl feathers reflects the racial entanglements of this particular killing spree and of Alexie's novel in general. In this essay, the author explores the cultural logic of ethnographic archives in the text to illuminate the ways collecting underpins a brutal and undeclared race war. Her reading builds on theories of the ways collections radically decontextualize and contain objects of alterity as they shore up the collectors' identities. The description of the killer's collection in the final chapter of the novel reiterates the significance of ethnographic collection examined throughout the text, its violence, its meaning-making, and its political implications. For Alexie, the decontexualization and containment inherent in ethnographic collections constitute cultural violence analogous to the killer's attacks. The depictions of explosive physical violence that have preoccupied critics of the novel serve as inverted metaphors for the kinds of cultural violence Alexie sees inflicted upon Native American identity by the academy, the publishing world, and the armchair ethnographer. The killer's collection dramatically memorializes his own violence, but it is the violence of collection itself that suffuses the novel.
University of Nebraska Press. 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0630. Tel: 800-755-1105; Fax: 800-526-2617; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A