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James Clifford
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Returnsexplores homecomings--the ways people recover and renew their roots. Engaging with indigenous histories of survival and transformation, James Clifford opens fundamental questions about where we are going, separately and together, in a globalizing, but not homogenizing, world. It was once widely assumed that tribal societies were destined to disappear. Sooner or later, irresistible economic and political forces would complete the destruction begun by culture contact and colonialism. But aboriginal groups persist, a reality that complicates familiar narratives of modernization. History is a multidirectional process where the word "indigenous," long associated with primitivism and localism, takes on unexpected meanings. In these probing essays, native people in California, Alaska, and Oceania are shown to be agents, not victims, struggling within and against dominant forms of cultural identity and economic power. Their returns to the land, performances of heritage, and diasporic ties are strategies for moving forward, ways to articulate what can paradoxically be called "traditional futures." With inventiveness and pragmatism, often against the odds, indigenous people are forging original pathways in a tangled, open-ended modernity. Third in a series that includesThe Predicament of CultureandRoutes, this volume continues Clifford's signature exploration of intercultural representations, travels, and now returns.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72622-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 1-10)

    Returnsis the third volume in a series beginning in 1988 withThe Predicament of Cultureand followed in 1997 byRoutes. Like the others, it collects work written over roughly a decade. Ideas begun in one book are reworked in the others. All the important questions remain open.Returnsis thus not a conclusion, the completion of a trilogy. It belongs to a continuing series of reflections, responses to changing times. In retrospect, how can these times be understood? What larger historical developments, shifting pressures and limits, have shaped this course of thinking and writing?

    Situating one’s own work...

  4. PART I

    • 1 Among Histories
      (pp. 13-49)

      Indigenous people have emerged from history’s blind spot. No longer pathetic victims or noble messengers from lost worlds, they are visible actors in local, national, and global arenas. On every continent, survivors of colonial invasions and forced assimilation renew their cultural heritage and reconnect with lost lands. They struggle within dominant regimes that continue to belittle and misunderstand them, their very survival a form of resistance.

      To take seriously the current resurgence of native, tribal, or aboriginal societies we need to avoid both romantic celebration and knowing critique. An attitude of critical openness is required, a way of engaging with...

    • 2 Indigenous Articulations
      (pp. 50-67)

      New Caledonia is a rather long island, about three hundred miles end to end, and never more than fifty wide. Its spine is mountainous, with transverse valleys running to the sea. In 1850 about thirty distinct language groups occupied these separate valleys—a classic Western Pacific social ecology. A century and a half later much has changed. New Caledonia is a settler colony, once the site of a French penitentiary, now a nickel-mining center, with a long history of violent displacements of the indigenous people. Since the sixties, there has been an intensification of resistance to French rule, in the...

    • 3 Varieties of Indigenous Experience
      (pp. 68-88)

      “Indigenous experience” is difficult to contain: the senses of belonging evoked by the phrase are integral to many, and diverse, localisms and nationalisms. Sometimes it comes down to a minimal claim, relational and strategic: “We were here beforeyou.” Feeling indigenous may crystallize around hostility to outsiders, to invaders or immigrants. Many forms of nativism sustain these sorts of borders, reflecting immediate political agendas, self-defense, or aggression. The anteriority claimed can be relatively shallow and fundamentally contested: all sorts of people, these days, claim “indigeneity” vis-à-vis someone else. There are, nonetheless, many social groups with undeniably deep roots in a...

  5. PART II

    • 4 Ishi’s Story
      (pp. 91-192)

      “Ishi’s Story” could mean “the story of Ishi,” recounted by a historian or some other authority who gathers together what is known with the goal of forming a coherent, definitive picture. No such perspective is available to us, however. The story is unfinished and proliferating. My title could also mean “Ishi’s own story,” told by Ishi, or on his behalf, a narration giving access to his feelings, his experience, his judgments. But we have only suggestive fragments and enormous gaps: a silence that calls forth more versions, images, endings. “Ishi’s story,” tragic and redemptive, has been told and retold, by...


    • 5 Hau’ofa’s Hope
      (pp. 195-212)

      I am grateful for the invitation to address the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) as its distinguished lecturer—especially since my relation to Pacific scholarship has always been rather unprofessional, or at least spotty. I like to think of myself as an amateur—in a sense that comes through best in the Frenchamateur:one who loves. Someone who cultivates a study or art from taste or attraction rather than professionally. (I pass over another meaning, more prominent in the English language dictionaries: “a person who does something more or less unskillfully.”) So I address you as a...

    • 6 Looking Several Ways
      (pp. 213-260)

      Gone are the days when cultural anthropologists could, without contradiction, present “the native point of view,” when archaeologists and physical anthropologists excavated tribal remains without local permission, when linguists collected data on indigenous languages without feeling pressure to return the results in accessible form. Scholarly outsiders now find themselves barred from access to research sites, met with new or newly public suspicion. Indeed, “the anthropologist”—broadly and sometimes stereotypically defined—has become a negative alter ego in contemporary indigenous discourse, invoked as the epitome of arrogant, intrusive colonial authority. The most famous salvo is, of course, Vine Deloria’sCuster Died...

    • 7 Second Life: The Return of the Masks
      (pp. 261-314)

      Anchorage is spread out along Cook Inlet below the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Chugach range. Mile after mile of straight multilane boulevards made the place feel, to me, like Los Angeles, except for all the trees, pickup trucks, and mud. Anchorage is Alaska’s one big city, with nearly half of the state’s population of 680,000. Its inhabitants are old and new immigrants—some with origins in the Gold Rush, others lured by the recent oil and gas bonanzas, plus a steady stream of escapees from the over-civilized lower forty-eight. In addition, Filipino, Island Pacific, and Latin American migrants come...

  7. Epilogue
    (pp. 315-320)

    The quotation concludes a two-page essay, “Alutiiq,” inCrossroads Alaska: Native Cultures of Alaska and Siberia(Chaussonnet 1995: 15). Barbara Shangin’s words brought me up short when I first encountered them more than a decade ago, and I have written about them repeatedly (Clifford 1997a, Chapters 1 and 6 in this volume). What would it mean, I kept asking, to understand them as a realist historical statement? Not wishful thinking, or a way of sustaining morale, or a kind of resigned patience. Could this be a serious and credible description of what was and is happening? the answer has not...

  8. References
    (pp. 321-344)
  9. Sources
    (pp. 345-346)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 347-348)
  11. Index
    (pp. 349-366)