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Going Native

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Related Products In Amazon Going Native is Stephen Wright’s darkly comic take on the road novel, in which one man’s headlong escape from the American Dream becomes everybody’s worst nightmare. Wylie Jones is set: lovely wife, beautiful kids, barbecues in the backyard of his tastefully decorated suburban Chicago house with good friends. Set, but not satisfied. So one night he just walks out, gets behind the wheel of a neighbor’s emerald-green Galaxy 500, and drives off into some other life, his name changed, his personality malleable. In Wright’s inimitable narrative, we’re taken on a joy ride to hell, a rollercoaster of sex and violence and the peculiar mix of the two that is our society today.So many hyperbolic statements have been made about this novel–from Don DeLillo calling it a “slasher classic,” to The Village Voice calling it a “mescaline Slurpee,” to The New Yorker comparing it to Orson Welles’s “deliciously sleazy” Touch of Evil–that it can be hard to sort out the truth from the hype. The bottom line is that this is a postmodern road novel about mass media, with multiple allusions to horror movies. As the rave review in the premiere horror critique rag, Necrofile, puts it, Going Native is about the “round-the-clock bombardment of inanity and violence that has so thoroughly invaded mundane existence as to render it cartoon-like.” If you care about how horror imagery affects modern culture, and you want to have a great time thinking about it, then read this book.
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Since the 1800’s, many European Americans have relied on Native Americans as models for their own national, racial, and gender identities. Displays of this impulse include world’s fairs, fraternal organizations, and films such as Dances with Wolves. Shari M. Huhndorf uses cultural artifacts such as these to examine the phenomenon of “going native,” showing its complex relations to social crises in the broader American society—including those posed by the rise of industrial capitalism, the completion of the military conquest of Native America, and feminist and civil rights activism.

Huhndorf looks at several modern cultural manifestations of the desire of European Americans to emulate Native Americans. Some are quite pervasive, as is clear from the continuing, if controversial, existence of fraternal organizations for young and old which rely upon “Indian” costumes and rituals. Another fascinating example is the process by which Arctic travelers “went Eskimo,” as Huhndorf describes in her readings of Robert Flaherty’s travel narrative, My Eskimo Friends, and his documentary film, Nanook of the North. Huhndorf asserts that European Americans’ appropriation of Native identities is not a thing of the past, and she takes a skeptical look at the “tribes” beloved of New Age devotees.

Going Native shows how even seemingly harmless images of Native Americans can articulate and reinforce a range of power relations including slavery, patriarchy, and the continued oppression of Native Americans. Huhndorf reconsiders the cultural importance and political implications of the history of the impersonation of Indian identity in light of continuing debates over race, gender, and colonialism in American culture.

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