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Reviews of Widdowson and Howard’s “Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry”

I don’t have time to formulate my own review right now … suffice it to say I have appreciated the frankness of Widdowson and Howard’s Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry. The questions they ask about aboriginal poverty, its reasons and solutions to it should be asked — even if (especially if) they generate widely disparate answers. The discussion about traditional knowledge and its value to the assessments of the environmental impacts of resource development projects is timely.

Here are a couple of newspaper reviews of Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry:

Race and Culture Not the Same (Winnipeg Sun)

Before one assumes this is a “racist” argument, one must understand there is a big difference between race and culture. All societies, including European ones, passed through periods of cultural evolution, which is determined by environmental factors, not biology. At one point, European societies were small, kinship-based societies just like indigenous peoples. Because they lacked surplus food production, First Nation societies did not enjoy the division of labour that European civilizations had at the time and did not have the sophisticated, literate society that grew out of that.

It’s not ‘us’ and them in Canada (Winnipeg Sun)

Non-native advisers exploiting aboriginals: book (Ottawa Citizen)

Leftist couple’s stance on aboriginals leaves them in the cold (National Post)

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  1. Ed L. wrote:

    They seem to be suggesting that aboriginal consciousness is the product of an all-encompassing legal and institutional framework, and not local practices, ways of life and being, historical conditions, aboriginal modes of production, and social relations in aboriginal communities. They make the typical mistake of inflating the importance of non-aboriginal lawyers, consultants, and anthropologists. I haven’t read it, but the reviews suggest a doctrinaire, outdated, and clumsy reading of Marxist epochal histories and cultural evolution, which trends in the direction of rationalization and utopian post-enlightenment fantasies and away from local struggles over meaning, co-opting national agendas, translation, difference, and long-standing battles over power and legitimacy (and the struggle to define the concepts and the rules of the debate). This appears to be a re-robing of history, rather than a disrobing … and a helpful reminder that all history is ideological (especially those that presume to be otherwise).

    Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  2. Ed … nicely said. To be honest, I do not understand precisely why Marx and Morgan are the central theoretical figures in the disrobing. Surely there are alternatives for understanding the contemporary problems of aboriginal peoples — and how those problems might be resolved. (Eldon Yellowhorn’s ‘recolonization’ might be one. Cole Harris’ ‘politics of difference’ might be another.)

    I agree that the role of anthros and consultants is overstated. Interestingly, W&H don’t mention academic anthropology — except as the foundation for their critique. Their challenge to the ‘aboriginal industry’ is really focused on greed and corruption. That concern extends to anyone (any group) that exploits the funds allocated to aboriginal people and communities. I don’t have a problem with that observation.

    Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink
  3. Dirk wrote:

    Tad ;you might want to check out Gerald Taiaiake Alfred’s review of Disrobing

    Monday, January 19, 2009 at 1:05 am | Permalink
  4. Thank you for the link,. Dirk.

    Monday, January 19, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink