Catherine A. Lutz - Unnatural Emotions

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"Yes, it's only Reservation Blues but I like it:" On the Connection between Christian and Native Religions

One of the most interesting aspects of the anthropological study of Catherine A. Lutz, entitled Unnatural Emotions, is that the author applies the same sort of intense self-examination to her own project as an anthropologist amongst the Ifaluk as she does to the Ifaluk themselves. Every individual at some point in his or her own life has been confronted with the surprise, after all, that someone seems ‘exactly like me.' Or, conversely, one is shocked how another human animal, possessing roughly the same physical attributes of one's genus and species as one's self, could behave in such a horrible/wonderful fashion, totally ‘unlike me.' Catherine Lutz suggests that these latter moments come, not so often when an individual is the presence of someone he or she regards as wholly alien, but when an individual is in the presence of someone he or she has come to regard as familiar, who suddenly surprises him or her. Lutz did not experience her own internal surprises, more often than not, when she was beginning to be acclimated to Ifaluk culture—everything seemed strange to her anthropological eyes, over the course of her initial encounters. However, after she began to think that these people were more like her than she initially though, in other words, when she began to think that she could predict their responses to a certain extent, based upon her preexisting cultural assumptions and modalities, then she when she was taken by surprise at their differences. A reader of Sherman Alexie's novel Reservation Blues enters the text with similar assumptions of Native American life, unless of course, he or she is of that particular community. If he or she is not, however, there is the likelihood that the ‘typical' reader has images of Native Americans based upon long-held social stereotypes of the Lone Ranger's Tonto and Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves," possibly...
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