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Deciphering Kokopelli: Masculinity in Commodified Appropriations of Native American Imagery

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Abstract:

Kokopelli "the hump-backed fluteplayer" has become an icon of the Southwest as well as a metonym for the region's Native American cultures. Guided by the trope of the primitive, this essay analyzes contemporary Kokopelli imagery as a projection of Euro-American masculinist fantasies and as a contemporary commodity form, the cipher. Kokopelli imagery models a virile and promiscuous heterosexual masculinity while erasing its anatomical signs. It articulates intersections of gender, race, and culture that simultaneously highlight and obscure primitive masculinity and racial difference, enabling the use of Native American culture and spirituality to (re)vitalize Euro-American masculinity and promote (neo)colonial appropriations.

Keywords: Cipher; Commodification; Masculinity; Native American Culture; Primitive

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14791420701459715

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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