North American Ethnographic Contexts


The curricular unit´s main objective is to introduce students to some major aspects of the ethnographic and historical reality of the North American continent, particularly as regards Native American communities and their cultural legacies within the colonial history. Following a line of analysis that focus on the ethnographic archive, it is intended that students work on the vernacular contents of the Americanist tradition of the 19th and 20th centuries. The curricular unit stimulates the ability to put into dialogue some of the classics of American \"salvage\" and \"acculturation\" ethnography and the contemporary approaches. It creates analytical and interpretative skills through a deeper and more diachronic focus on selected themes and contexts. The proposed approach encourages the students to articulate the deciphering of theoretical debates and the examination of particularly significant ethnographies from different eras, making bridges for the observation of contemporary contexts.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Available soon


Weekly - 4

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





Hittman, M., 1997 [1990]. Wovoka and the Ghost Dance. Lincoln, London: University of Nebraska Press Holler, C., 1995. Black Elk´s Religion. The Sun Dance and Lakota Catholicism. New York: Syracuse University Press Maddra, S. A., 2006. Hostiles? the Lakota Ghost Dance and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, University of Oklahoma Press Mails, T. E., 1978. Sundancing at Rosebud and Pine Ridge. Sioux Falls: Center for Western Studies, Augustana College Nichols, D.A., 2008. Red Gentleman and White Savages: Indians, Federalists and the Search for Order on the American Frontier. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press Strong, P. T., 2005. \"Recent Ethnographic Research on North American Indigenous Peoples\", Annual Review of Anthropology, 34: 253-268 Valentine, L. P. & R. Darnell (eds.). 1999. Theorizing the Americanist Tradition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Teaching method

The curricular unit follows a theoretical-practical methodology, with a preliminary explanation of the key contents of each course by the teacher, using slideshows with quotations of ethnographic and historical texts, as well as selected images, and in an open mode of permanent interaction with students, through questions, comments and free interventions. In a second moment, which can interpenetrate the expository component, students are invited to analyse in detail, through collective discussion, certain passages or other content that allow deepening the synthetically exposed matter, and to carry out small exercises of analysis and interpretation in groups. A third component consists of debates on the subject taught.

Evaluation method

The assessment consists of two written tests and exercises in class, and students may choose an alternative method of assessment with a global written test.

Subject matter

1. introduction 1.1. Indians or First Nations? Terminology and chronology 1.2 The Americanist tradition in anthropology 1.3 The myth of the Frontier and the diffusion of the horse
1.4 Popular representations of the \"Indian\" from Wild West Shows to Hollywood 2. The colonial maze of Spirit Dance 2.1 ´All is gone´: the visionary ethnography of James Mooney 2.2 The Indian police in the Lakota context 2.3 Anthropological transformations of Wovoka 2.4 The Mormons and the \"Lamanites\": religion, academia, and power 2.5. The Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 to the American Indian Movement 3. The Controversy of the Prophet´s Dance 3.1. Leslie Spier´s diffusionist theses: ethnography and archive 3.2 Trance America: the Puget Strait Shakers 4. Sun Dance: prohibition, salvation, reinvention 4.1 James Walker in Pine Ridge: the rediscovery of a rare ethnography 4.2 Clyde Holler and the anthropological chimera of the classical dance 4.3. Ethnographies of the contemporary dance


Programs where the course is taught: