Ethnicity Studies · graduate school · Native American Studies

Brief thoughts on Chadwick Allen’s Blood Narrative

Chadwick Allen’s Blood Narrative presents an interesting problem for me. It’s an excellent book, performing a comparison and analysis of activism and literature of American Indians and Maoris in the early contemporary period. Allen examines many of the ways that Maoris and American Indians situations differed in terms of politics, demographic, and population. The main differences for Maoris resulted from the fact that there was a more unified and cohesive cultural tradition that was lacking in the United States, simply because of the number of tribes in the U.S. as compared to the unity of language and the smaller geographical area in New Zealand. Yet, similar tactics evolved out of both political situations. Of importance to both American Indian groups and to Maoris is the concept of the blood/land/memory complex. Blood, land, and memory are the three primary and interrelated sites in identifying indigenous identities. The terms are controversial, and so take quite a bit of parsing out throughout the text. Allen does an excellent job. His book is highly useful, and also fascinating.

The problem, then, that this book poses for me is that 1) one of my committee members told me that my examination of representation of American Indian characters in literature had already been done; and 2) my committee told me that looking at more than one cultural group would be problematic because of the differences in political climate.

As far as the first goes, sure, representation has already been done. But I don’t see that all of it has been done, and I’m not doing it in the same way as everyone else. As for the differences in political climate making it difficult for me to look at the climate in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Mexico, Allen did quite an excellent job of looking at New Zealand and the U.S., over multiple decades, so I feel like I can look at three regions over two decades without too much trouble.

Of course, I need to have a focused thread. For me, I think that will be a focus on the objects associated with particular groups, more so than the people. Perhaps a focus on the objects will complement my interest in ethnographic and anthropological practices of the time as well, and go along with my persistent examination of nostalgia.

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