I wrote earlier that voyeurism is the ignorance of colonial consciousness writ large. It denies what’s true- that we are present- but you can tell in most white people’s composure that they see themselves and function as distant observers, not participants. They show up, get the experience, catalogue it, chronicle it, then slide back into the comfortable soma haze of their lives until the urge for commodified sustenance takes hold of them again. I use the word “commodified,” because the way they relate to the world- and especially identifiably “cultural” experiences- suggests they see a petite package of experience they can ingest in order to make them more…“something.” The something is undefined, but the frenzy of it all, the excitement of witnessing the ethnic other in their native habitat, is so indicative of their relationship to reality: they see themselves as outside of it, separate from it. Powwow isn’t the only place this happens, obviously, but it’s one of the most blatant and egregious.
I love this whole article. We had a discussion recently with some Germans about this colonialist culture, this completely sure of itself approach of other cultures with the attitude that we (white, English, whatever) are the only real thing that matters.
I personally think Germans (or some Germans) don’t do this. I know I don’t, and there’s countless stories of Germans (and Austrians) going abroad and going native. In connection with the Native Americans, one of my favourite German writers, Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich, an anthropologist, was a forerunner of this culture. She really got involved with Lakota culture before taking it upon herself to write about it.
I sometimes wish the natives had more contact with Germans (especially East Germans who have all grown up reading Liselotte’s books) than with Americans, they’d feel completely different about themselves.