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"Going native" in the twentieth century

By Dorothy Ann Fontaine


Originally a pejorative label assigned to someone who has left a structured, civilized, sophisticated society for one (presumably) less responsible, less structured, and less industrious than the original, going native seems deceptively simple to define in its implications. However, it raises critical questions about one's sense of self within a group or nationality, opening up new categories within old oppositions. As the term's pejorative nature seems to continue to moderate, this text seeks to find the spaces in which the term "going native" places itself in the writing and film of the 1900's. The term is originally a British term for a phenomenon that touches all historical multicultural contacts and clashes. I am looking at a one-way street in examining this term: the characters involved were all created (in the case of fiction) or born (in the non-fiction examples) Anglo-American or British but found their ways into cultural settings that these two particular cultures find extremely foreign and mysterious. The Introduction looks briefly at the Albert Memmi's The Colonizer and the Colonized to find a space for the idea of going native as well as looking the linguistic construction itself, its issues for Anthropology, and transculturation. Chapter One looks at the personality of the new native in Sokolov's Native Intelligence, Tidwell's Amazon Stranger and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (as well as Roeg's film of Conrad's novella and Coppola's Apocalypse Now ). Chapter Two examines the texts and films about Archie Belaney/Grey Owl and why a white man at the turn of the century would want to trade a white racial identity for that of an Indian at a time of such social disparity between the races. Chapter Three examines the intersection of going native and treason, focusing on Harry St. John Bridger Philby, Kim Philby, Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga and the writings of Rebecca West. The final chapter looks at an extreme of going native---going feral---(where the new native joins another species rather than another culture) through Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and the story of Dian Fossey

Topics: Modern literature, Cultural anthropology, Canadian literature
Year: 2001
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