Allotment Subjectivities and the Administration of “Culture”

Mark Rifkin

in When Did Indians Become Straight?

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199755455
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894888 | DOI:
Allotment Subjectivities and the Administration of “Culture”

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Chapter 4 argues that the continuing legacy of allotment shapes the conditions of native political representation under the Indian Reorganization Act (1934), which ostensibly sought to replace the allotment program with a sustained commitment to promoting native “community.” The kinds of native collectivity produced by reorganization implicitly depend on the heteronormative dynamics of allotment—particularly the self-evidence of the nuclear-family form and of a stable distinction between public and private spheres. Looking at significant policy statements about the Indian Reorganization Act before and after its passage, the chapter illustrates how the conjugally centered privatization performed by allotment helps structure and provide an ordering limit for what can count as legitimate native governance, using the Pine Ridge reservation as an example. Counterposing the notion of “domestic relations” institutionalized under reorganization to Ella Deloria’s representation of “kinship” in Speaking of Indians (1944) and Waterlily (completed in the late 1940s, published in 1988), it shows how she locates forms of identification and interdependence that cannot be registered in an allotment imaginary and, therefore, exposes the series of assumptions about home and family that continue to undergird U.S. Indian policy in the 1930s and 1940s.

Keywords: John Collier; anthropology; Ella Deloria; Indian Reorganization Act; Teton Sioux; Pine Ridge; domestic relations; Franz Boas; Ruth Benedict; culture

Chapter.  23920 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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