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I help Indigenous people around the world do business internationally in the arts, mainly performance. Almost all the anthropologists I encounter are appalled. There seems to be a major effort in anthropology to "protect" and "preserve" Indigenous talent, but a strong reaction to promoting Indigenous talent. What would happen if we thought of Indigenous musicians NOT as priceless repositories of age-old lore, but as musicians who want to reach audiences?


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Gordon, I've known you for a few years, and followed your exploits with interest. I simply don't understand the negative reactions, but then, there's a lot I don't understand. About US politics, for one thing.

But I'll bet you that there are lots of anthropologists out there who don't find your work "appalling." You're just not hearing from them. Many of them probably aren't the type of weigh in on much of anything (I'm often in that category myself), while others are probably non-academic practitioners who are, like you, busy doing the work of the world, and as long as something ain't broke, they don't stop to fix it.

That said, there's no doubt your work touches nerves amongst the preservationist crowd, the anti-applied crowd, the anti-popularizer crowd, and Lord knows who else. Too bad. You're doing good work, but you're probably just too far out in front for some of these folks.

Keep going anyway.

Riall Nolan
Thanks for your reply and your kind words. As for appalled anthros, well, when I moved back to Albuquerque, I heard that the Department of Anthro (where I got my BA in 1971) was "warning people about working with me". I think they're on the very strict end of the protectionist/preservationist spectrum. Goodness knows, I'm completely off the deep end on the promotionist side. They were pretty shocked at my idea for an international Native language writers festival--but the Pequots just asked me to submit a proposal, and the University of Veracruz is interested too. NO interest in NM AT ALL in an international Indigenous theater fest, so I'm coproducing it in London instead. Over the years, I've developed a mystic, magic mantra that has saved my mental health--if someone doesn't want to play, someone else will. I'm not going to slash my wrists because I'm producing something in London rather than in West Nowhere, NM!





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