Individuality Incorporated

Indians and the Multicultural Modern

Individuality Incorporated

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 5 figures Published: February 2004

Author: Joel Pfister

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Native and Indigenous Studies

Spanning the 1870s to the present, Individuality Incorporated demonstrates how crucial a knowledge of Native American-White history is to rethinking key issues in American studies, cultural studies, and the history of subjectivity. Joel Pfister proposes an ingenious critical and historical reinterpretation of constructions of “Indians” and “individuals.” Native Americans have long contemplated the irony that the government used its schools to coerce children from diverse tribes to view themselves first as “Indians”—encoded as the evolutionary problem—and then as “individuals”—defined as the civilized industrial solution. As Luther Standing Bear, Charles Eastman, and Black Elk attest, tribal cultures had their own complex ways of imagining, enhancing, motivating, and performing the self that did not conform to federal blueprints labeled “individuality.” Enlarging the scope of this history of “individuality,” Pfister elaborates the implications of state, corporate, and aesthetic experiments that moved beyond the tactics of an older melting pot hegemony to impose a modern protomulticultural rule on Natives. The argument focuses on the famous Carlisle Indian School; assimilationist novels; Native literature and cultural critique from Zitkala-Sa to Leslie Marmon Silko; Taos and Santa Fe bohemians (Mabel Dodge Luhan, D. H. Lawrence, Mary Austin); multicultural modernisms (Fred Kabotie, Oliver La Farge, John Sloan, D’Arcy McNickle); the Southwestern tourism industry’s development of corporate multiculturalism; the diversity management schemes that John Collier implemented as head of the Indian New Deal; and early formulations of ethnic studies. Pfister’s unique analysis moves from Gilded Age incorporations of individuality to postmodern incorporations of multicultural reworkings of individuality to unpack what is at stake in producing subjectivity in World America.


Individuality Incorporated . . . ably and admirably links areas of scholarly concern that often remain distinct, even disjunct. . . . [P]otential inquiries testify to the immense generativity of Pfister’s work, opening up possibilities for additional research that hopefully can match both the breadth of the book’s synthesis and its sensitivity to the texture of the issues and materials it engages.” — Mark Rifkin, D.H. Lawrence Review

“[H]elpful in illuminating how different federal policies emerged. . . .” — Maria Orban, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“One of Pfister’s major accomplishments in Individuality Incorporated--one that will appeal both to American studies scholars and to those more invested in tribally-centered approaches to American Indian cultural history--is his meticulous mining of archival materials related to the Carlisle Indian School. . . . Pfister deftly shows how this education for individualism required a pedagogy of sentiment as well as economics, and how it was structured as much by class and gender as by race.” — Michael A. Elliot, American Literary History

“Pfister’s book not only tells us how the Carlisle School affected the lives of thousands of people who just wanted to be left alone, turning Indians into Americans, it also reminds us how America continues to see the ‘other’ as an object to be studied, moulded, and changed for their own supposed good.” — Lincoln Geraghty, Journal of American Studies

"Individuality Incorporated offers us an important and revealing study of the production of discourses of individuality, society, and culture at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the book ought to be commended especially for the psychological layer that it adds to the problem at hand." — Arif Dirlik, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"[A]n important study that not only advances our understanding of the complexity of Indian-white relations but also interrogates the very nature of American racial ideology." — S. Elizabeth Bird, Pacific Historical Review

"In a short review, I can barely hint at the richness and sophistication of [Pfister's] multidisciplinary achievement. . . . This book is a historical, literary, and cultural tour de force. . . . [It] provides a penetrating analysis of hegemonic 'truths' about the supposed need of people everywhere for certain kinds of American subjectivities." — Michael C. Coleman, American Historical Review

"Ironically, the first step of assimilative individuation was to homogenize myriad Native cultures into racial Indians. Pfister analyzes with particular insight the resisting ironies of Carlisle’s newspapers, publications, and football team, stressing the agency that Native people maintained. . . . [C]ompellingly demonstrate[s] the strategic relevance of cultural rhetoric in our global era." — Kendall Johnson, American Literature

"Pfister builds a brilliant argument that traces both Native responses to, and white investments in, the changing notion of the 'individual.'" — Bethany Schneider, Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature

"Pfister does an admirable job of constructing case studies of Carlisle and the New Deal and showing that whites constructed ideological justifications in their efforts to control or 'liberate' Native Americans. Through literary analysis, Pfister proves that perceptions of American Indians helped them define what was desirable in American society. . . . Especially valuable is Pfister's treatment of American Indian novelists' counterpoints to white constructs. Historians rarely include works of fiction in their scholarship but Pfister demonstrates that investigators of the past might miss telling insights by eschewing certain sources." — Robert C. Galgano, History: Reviews of New Books

"The level of archival work and close reading in this book is impressive." — Joy Porter, Studies in American Indian Literatures

"The two sets of underused archival material [this book] brings into scholarly purview are absolutely fascinating." — Joy Porter, Journal of American History

Individuality Incorporated is a real contribution to American cultural studies. Its reexaminations of the Carlisle School, John Collier, and the Taos bohemians produce a detailed picture of the uses of ‘Indianizing.’ The book is of real service to discussions of race, assimilation, and individualism in the twentieth century.” — Tom Lutz, University of Iowa

“Joel Pfister’s book shows how Indians served as subjects for quite specific American ideological projects, in this case, projects involving different conceptions of the ‘individual.’ Pfister’s extensive archival research makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Richard Henry Pratt and the Carlisle Indian School and of John Collier and the Indian New Deal. He pays careful attention to such earlier Native writers and activists as Gertrude and Raymond Bonnin, Luther Standing Bear, and D’Arcy McNickle as well to contemporary Native writers like Leslie Marmon Silko, Jimmie Durham, and Sherman Alexie, among several others. This is a wide-ranging and important book.” — Arnold Krupat, Sarah Lawrence College


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Joel Pfister is Professor of American Studies and English at Wesleyan University. He is a coeditor of Inventing the Psychological: Toward a Cultural History of Emotional Life in America and the author of Staging Depth: Eugene O’Neill and the Politics of Psychological Discourse and The Production of Personal Life: Class, Gender, and the Psychological in Hawthorne’s Fiction.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Lessons Indians Can Teach American Studies about the Role of Individuality 1


Categorizing and Institutionalizing Indians and Individuals 29

1 Carlisle as Individualizing Factory: Making Indians, Individuals, Workers 31

2 The School of Savagery: “Indian” Formations of Subjectivity and Carlisle 97


Multicultural Modernity Incorporated 133

3 Modernist Multiculturalism: Lawrence, Luhan, and the White Therapeutic Indianizing of “Lost” White Individuality 135

4 Indians Inc.:Collier’s New Deal Diversity Management 185

Afterward: Diversity Incorporated and World Americanization 229

Appendix 1 Notes on Natives and Socialism 253

Appendix 2 A Proposal to Reopen Carlisle 257

Abbreviations in Notes 259

Notes 261

Index 321
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3292-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3254-1
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