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Reconstructing Tonto: Cultural formations and American Indians in 1990s television fiction

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This article draws on theories of colonial discourse, cultural representation, subjectivity, feminist studies, cultural studies, and historical analysis to examine how the representations of American Indians in 1990s television fiction are constructed, especially in the American television fictions Northern Exposure, Twin Peaks and Paradise . Central to this analysis is the discussion of colonial discourse and representations of American Indians as Other on popular American television and, more generally, in mainstream American discourse. This examination is set in the context of the issues surrounding the treatment of Indian people in mainstream history, in film, and in contemporary television fiction. It is the authors' position that in the easy acceptance of a stereotyped cultural construction, mainstream America has come to little knowledge or understanding of American Indian nations, their contemporary concerns, or their discrete identities. For the mass market, their contemporary concerns, or their discrete identities. For the mass market, the Indian is either the Vanishing Race of Edward Curtis's photographs or the savage of the captivity narratives, and the process by which that imaginary functions to contain American Indian identity continues in our most popular narrative today: television fiction.
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Keywords: American Indians; cultural studies; postcolonial theory; stereotyping; subjectivity; television fiction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 1995

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