Rethinking Ethnohistory in Global Indigenous Histories

Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:50 AM
Mile High Ballroom 2B (Colorado Convention Center)
Seth W. Garfield, University of Texas at Austin
In my presentation I would propose a rethinking of ethnohistory in its application to global indigenous histories. As a revisionist field foregrounding the study of (minority) ethnic groups, ethnohistory brought (and continues to bring) a much needed corrective to Eurocentric, statist histories. Yet a localized approach, sequestered from processes of state formation, market penetration, and global flows, also risks treating native peoples as exotics and cultural isolates. In my research on Brazilian indigenous history, I have sought to de-naturalize the categories of “Indian” (or even “Xavante”) by unpacking the ideological/ political/ legal/ material forces that went into the making of these cultural identities. I would add, however, that “ethnohistory” might be re-deployed as a conceptual tool to rethink regional and national histories. Given the centrality of racial ideologies in armatures of domination, it behooves historians to interrogate the formation of regions and nation-states, national(ist) historiographies, developmentalist tenets, and environmental (in)justice as ethnohistory: a history told by, about, and for ethnic groups that masquerades in tales of universalist progress.
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