Home » The Potlatch Papers: A Colonial Case History by Christopher Bracken
The Potlatch Papers: A Colonial Case History Christopher Bracken

The Potlatch Papers: A Colonial Case History

Christopher Bracken

Published
ISBN : 9780226069876
Paperback
283 pages
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 About the Book 

Variously described as an exchange of gifts, a destruction of property, a system of banking, and a struggle for prestige, the potlatch is one of the founding concepts of anthropology. Some researchers even claim to have discovered traces of theMoreVariously described as an exchange of gifts, a destruction of property, a system of banking, and a struggle for prestige, the potlatch is one of the founding concepts of anthropology. Some researchers even claim to have discovered traces of the potlatch in all the economies of the world.However, as Christopher Bracken shows in this elegantly argued work, the potlatch was in fact invented by the nineteenth-century Canadian law that sought to destroy it. In addition to giving the world its own potlatch, the law also generated a random collection of potlatch papers dating from the 1860s to the 1930s. Bracken meticulously analyzes these documents—some canonical, like Franz Boass ethnographies, others unpublished and little known—to catch a colonialist discourse in the act of constructing fictions about certain First Nations and then deploying those fictions against them. Rather than referring to objects that already exist, the potlatch papers instead gave themselves something to refer to- a mirror in which to observe not the Indian, but the European.