By Way of Introduction


The South is the great playground of the white American. The desert isn't good for anything else. But it does make a fine playground. And the Indian, with his long hair and his bits of pottery and blankets and clumsy home-made trinkets, he's a wonderful live toy to play with ... Lots of fun! Oh, the wild west is lots of fun: The Land of Enchantment. Like being right inside the circus-ring ... Come on, boys, were every bit as much right to it as everybody else ...

–D. H. Lawrence

All those clichés about distance and perspective, about leaving and re-visioning are true. I probably wouldn't be writing this paper if I hadn't accepted a position at Brown University in 1987 and left Tucson after fifteen years in the Southwest. I learned the hard way that I am a desert rat in need of space and powered by solar batteries, and I got back here after just one very long winter in Providence, Rhode Island. I also got a very different and much more critical perspective on just how the Southwest is imaged and marketed and what it means in and for the rest of America. We may debate among ourselves just what the Southwest is and is not, but I can assure you that much of the country and of the world does not. Hence, the idea for a conference on "Selling the Southwest," which Joe Wilder enthusiastically bought. The symposium, Inventing the Southwest/Region as Commodity, which produced this special issue of Journal of the Southwest, took place in Tucson April 11-13, 1990. It was jointly developed and sponsored by the Southwest Center and the Comparative Cultural Studies Task Force. Addressing the issue of regional invention and commodification from a variety of perspectives–architecture, literature, film, arts and crafts, tourism, real estate, geography, anthropology, and history–both the conference and this volume exemplify the kind of work that a regionally focused and interdisciplinary cultural studies program at the University of Arizona can coordinate and produce in conjunction with the Southwest Center.
THE SOUTHWEST IS MANY THINGS to many peoples, and many things have happened here during several thousand years of human habitation. But who decides, defines, and invents what Southwest really is and what happens to that 'reality' when it is shipped to Boston, Washington, New York, and Paris, when it's manufactured in Taiwan–whether it's Pueblo pottery, Navajo jewelry, Desert Rose salsa or Carta Blanca beer? Despite the diversity of whatever it is that we call Southwest, it is also apparent that there are key symbols, dominant tropes, and paradigmatic designs and colors that everyone recognizes, and that these are presently very marketable. One need only open recent issues of such popular mail-order catalogues as Talbots, Eddie Bauer, Tweeds, J. Crew, L. L. Bean, or The Paragon. There, in a variety of media and materials, are an endless profusion of coyotes, saguaros (fig. 1), concho belts, Pueblo pots, and Navajo weaving designs (fig. 2). Why these figures in particular? What authorizes certain representations while blocking, prohibiting, and invalidating others? Why is the Hopi Snake Dance the most published event in Southwest ethnography? Why has the study of pottery generated more literature than any other aspect of Southwest culture? And why are Pueblo women always imaged with pots on their heads (fig. 3)? Do all Chicanos drive lowriders and eat beans and tortillas? Have chile lights and luminarios on their porches and glittering Guadalupe recuerdos on their walls (fig. 4)? Don't all Southwesterners live in Santa Fe-style adobe houses?
Perhaps the only thing more surprising than the consistency and the popularity of such images is their longevity. The landscapes and peoples and distinctive objects being portrayed in Casteñada's chronicles of the sixteenth century, Cushing's descriptions of the nineteenth century, and in contemporary representations, sound and look remarkably the same. Which is what the practice of "Othering" is all about. "The positing of an Other is a necessary moment in the consolidation and the incorporation of any cultural body" (Owens 1983: 58), and cultures continue to reconstitute themselves through their ideological constructs of the exotic1. The New World and its indigenous inhabitants were Other for England and for Spain, and then the Spanish and Indian Southwest were/are Other for the rest of the United States–witness the popularity of Helen Hunt Jackon's nineteenth-century novel, Ramona, subsequently replayed several times on Hollywood film. Colonial exploitation and co-operation became post-colonial commodification, and then neo-colonial commodifications of commodifications of commodifications the latest craze of what Renato Rosaldo (1989) rightly describes as "imperialist nostalgia." This is epitomized by the Banana Republic Travel and Safari Clothing Company, which has recently added the Southwest and the Native American to its repertoire of exploitable colonial sites (fig. 5). All colonial discourse entails the objectification and aestheticization of the dominated, and, as this and countless other images attest, in the business of commodifying the Other, racist and sexist gestures frequently compound each other.
There has been a lot of talk across the disciplines in recent years about how culture is constructed, traditions invented, differences displayed, and region and ethnicity commodifying. Despite all the discussion of colonial discourse in India, Africa, or the Pacific, there has not been much critical discussion about these same phenomena in the Southwest–hence this conference and the essays in this volume. I wonder why we have not looked more cntica35;5616;84;135quy than we have at the economics, the technologies, and the politics of inventing this region. Perhaps it is because we are all, scholars and shopkeepers alike, caught up in it, seduced, co-opted into selling the Southwest or, in some cases, into being sold.
I know that Ruth Benedict was not alone in her characterization of the Pueblo, that there is a romantic, nostalgic attitude on the part of anthropologists as well as artists which sees the organic character of preliterate life as preferable to the heterogeneity of modern "In the case of Southwestern ethnology," John Bennett pointed out, "these tendencies may often assume a special form conditioned by the pervading sense of mystery and glamour of the country itself. A good deal of ethnology and archaeology in the Southwest has been done with a kind of eager reverence for turquoise, concho belts, Snake Dances, and distant desert vistas" (1946: 364-65). But Bennett and D. H. Lawrence (see epigraph) are quite atypical in daring to so explicitly demystify. As we discovered in organizing this symposium, more than one academic has resisted the idea of 'selling' the Southwest and other realities of contemporary life in this region. But it is happening, it has happened, and we need to understand what we're all creating, destroying, living, and participating in–not to mention how the rest of the world is selling and seeing us. The gaze is the technology of modern power, and the Southwest has been subjected to uninterrupted visibility for several centuries now (Foucault 1977).
In 1905 Hopi potter Nampeyo and her family were living and demonstrating at Hopi House at the Grand Canyon. When they left that living museum and returned to the mesas that spring for corn planting. Harvey employee Herman Schweizer wrote in a panic, on April 5, to Hubbell, the Hopi Indian agent at Keams Canyon: "Shriners excursions will be at the Canyon towards the end of this month ... over 1000 at the Canyon in one day so we must have Indians" (quoted in Simpson n.d.). Lest you think such colonial discourse is a thing of the past, I call your attention to several recent texts beginning with the cover of the 1987 Insight Guide with its olla maiden posed and, encircled to sell the Southwest (see figure 1 in following article).
You can even smell as well as see this other world. Aramis has a new skin scent for men–it's called the "New West"–and a 1990 advertisement features blue sky and a potted cactus and tells us that "East is East and West is something else entirely." Shulton is more specific and more sexual. Its cologne for men is called "Santa Fe," and we are told in countless suggestive ads to "discover the mystery of its attraction" (fig. 6).
The romance of Santa Fe also figures in a recent Money magazine advertisement entitled 'Adobe Sonata" (fig. 7). The text assures us that
To live in Santa Fe is to live amid the grandeur of nature and the beauty of the inspired artist's creation.
The readers of MONEY magazine can easily afford to reflect this harmony in the paintings and crafts that illuminate their homes.
Although the caption does not tell us that these "crafts" are Native American and primarily Pueblo, the advertisement makes several things obvious: that mud houses and pieces of pottery are "invested with indescribable romance," just as they were a century ago2, that Pueblo ollas have now become commonplace significations of considerable investment as well; and that contemporary displays of primitive art entail "issues of sex, money, and power" (Torgovnick 1990: 80). Countless advertisements such as these confirm that "the need of our society both to engulf Others and to exploit 'otherness' is not only a structural and ideological phenomenon; it has been at the root of the very development of capitalism" (Williamson 1986: 110).
Most of us cannot afford to live amid such expensive otherness, but we can wear it and walk through it, as well as look at it. H. H. Brown has followed Steven Spielberg into the romance of archaeology in its 1989-90 advertisements for "shoes with identity" situated in the sand with trowels and half-buried pots. And from Horchow's 1990 catalog, you could order "New Frontiers" sneakers, "hand-painted in brightly colored Indian symbols and Southwest landscapes." In February 1990 the New York Times fashion page announced "The Return of a Native," heralding the return of Pendelton-style Indian blankets and blanket coats, and Vogue magazine ran a feature entitled "Blanket Statement." In Chicago, Marshall Field & Company sold retro blanket coats as "Navaho Nouveau" (fig. 8). In fact, an entire section of its catalogue selling "the tribal beats of Spring" is entitled "Native Influences" (fig. 9). The caption reads: "From nouveau Navajo to safari chic, Spring 1990 wears the ethnic charm of its native influences (very) well indeed." Indeed, if you have $1,500 to burn, you, too, can wear a Ralph Lauren jacket with a "super chief' painted on the back. Can one doubt that imperialist nostalgia is selling well and that the Southwest and its indigenous inhabitants are being sold? Here and now, "the fashionable metropolitan world finds its own redemption in a fantasized periphery, the harsh struggle at the edge is once more appropriated and transformed to the interests of the metropole eager as always for the authentication of its own world view" (Kapferer 1988: 86).
Thanks to modern reproductive technology and electronic communication, it is much easier for metropolitan inhabitants to fall victim to Santa Fe style in 1990 than it was in 1890. In fact, it is well nigh unavoidable. And even that victimization can be imaged and sold, as in Jerry Milord's bestselling 1989 poster, "Another Victim of Santa Fe Style" (fig. 10). But perhaps before we all expire from too much "eau de Saguaro," "coyote chic," and "bone deco" or end up in an arroyo in an adobe bus, we need to understand why and why now. Whose idea was this "imaginative geography," and who has profited and is profiting from it? How has an "ethnographic pastoral" been constructed and maintained and at what cost to indigenous inhabitants? What are the consequences of "imperialist nostalgia"? And what does it mean to live and work in the "fantasized periphery" of the modem Southwest?


  1. This observation is something of a given in cultural theory. In addition to Owens (1983), I am particularly endebted to formulations by Foucault (1977) and Clifford (1988), and, most recently, Torgovnick (1990). For further discussion of colonial discourse and the dynamics of Othering, see in addition to Clifford, the texts by Bhabha, Carr, Minh-ha, and Ong cited in my essay, 'A New Mexican Rebecca," in this volume.
  2. In the essays reprinted in The Land of the Pueblo (1891), Susan Wallace describes Santa Fe as "invested with indescribable romance" and remarks that "an immense amount of romance is wasted on the old mud houses" and "pottery fragments."


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      1986 "Woman Is an Island: Femininity and Colonization." In Tania Modleski, ed. Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 99-118.

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