Animated Indians: Critique and Contradiction in Commodified Children's Culture

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Essay Excerpt

This is an essay about forms of "playing Indian" characteristic of the mid- 1990s: forms encouraged, on the one hand, by Disney's Pocahontas (1995) and its omnipresent commercial tie-ins and, on the other hand, by the nearly simulta- neously released The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) and its associated educational CD-ROM. My "situated knowledge" (Haraway 1991) of animated Indi- ans draws upon not only my professional status as an anthropologist with a long-standing interest in the production and significance of imagined Indians in Anglo-American culture (Strong 1985, 1992a, 1992b, 1995) but also my childhood memories of "playing Indian" at school, at summer camp, and in Camp Fire Girls. Most importantly, perhaps, the subject position from which I write is that of a parent, for my responses to Pocahontas and The Indian in the Cupboard are greatly influenced by those of my daughters, eight-year-old Tina and ten-year-old Katie.  (Strong, 405)

About the Author

Pauline Strong received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Colorado College and graduate degrees in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Chicago.  She has published on the representation of Native American cultures and identities in North American literature, scholarship, film, art, museums, sports events, legislation, social movements, and youth organizations. Her current research concerns the role that 20th-century youth organizations played in the development of racialized and gendered U.S. citizens.

She is the author of Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narrative (1999)and co-editor (with Sergei Kan) of New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, Representations (2006). Her articles appear in journals and anthologies in the fields of American Studies, cultural studies, history, media studies, Native American Studies, and sports studies as well as anthropology (see CV).

She currently directs the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, which offers a variety of programs  for intellectual engagement across the campus and community. Previously she served as President of the Society for Cultural Anthropology and Councilor of the American Society for Ethnohistory.  Her community service includes serving as President of the Board of the Balcones Council of Camp Fire USA.

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