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ERIC Number: EJ911362
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 55
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
Lost in Conflation: Visual Culture and Constructions of the Category of Religion
Zogry, Michael J.
American Indian Quarterly, v35 n1 p1-55 Win 2011
Issues of stereotyping with regard to Native American or First Nations peoples have been the subject of scholarly works from a number of different fields, and the element of religion often has loomed large in these treatments. Yet even in an era when the general public is acutely attuned to such issues, stereotypes of First Nations peoples continue to be presented in a number of different public contexts, including European American actors appearing "brownface" or "redface" in a theatrical production. Perhaps more surprisingly, stereotypes of Native American religions also continue to be presented in selected religious studies textbooks, particularly introductory ones. In this article, the author posits two categories of stereotypes: (1) intellectual; and (2) popular. His analysis hovers around the fault line that divides them, or perhaps the line that is conventionally supposed to separate them, for the distinction between the two ideal types quite often is blurred. The author highlights the observable relationship between selected resilient popular and scholarly representations of Native American religions by discussing the influence of both the John White illustrations and the Theodor de Bry engravings upon emerging and lingering conceptions of indigenous peoples, indigenous religions, and "religion" as a general category. The author's contribution is to highlight a particular trajectory that illustrates the influence this particular group of selected images has retained even into the twenty-first century. Using the outdoor drama "The Lost Colony" as the primary example, he suggests, first, that the images of indigenous people animated by actors in the play are composite, conflated images with a traceable lineage and, second, that these images, because of acquired cultural cachet, are exemplars of a category of cultural products that continue to inform discursive constructions of general and specific categories of "religion," both academic and popular. Specifically, he considers the White drawings, the de Bry engravings, the Paul Green outdoor drama, and the museum exhibitions that presented them as instruments that have contributed to the continued acceptance (and refinement, such as it is) of generalized and impressionistic notions of an "American Indian religion" or "Native American spirituality." In the final, most exploratory section of the article, the author contends that there is an observable relationship between scholarly versions of such notions about First Nations peoples and their religions and acceptance of a sui generis category of religion in which "religion" is construed a priori as the presence of an irreducible "sacred" that is by definition universal. (Contains 129 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
Identifiers - Location: North Carolina