Dissertation Abstract




"Our Elders Lived It": American Indian Identity And Community
in a Deindustrializing City (Urban Communities, Michigan)


Deborah Davis Jackson



Degree:           Ph.D.

Year:             1998

Pages:            332

Institution:     The University Of Michigan; 0127

Advisor:          Chair: E. Valentine Daniel


Source:           DAI, 59, no. 07A, (1998): 2581


Issues of "ethnic identity" have gained increasing importance in the United States (and elsewhere) as disenfranchised "minority groups" seek to improve their circumstances and promote positive images of themselves. These "identity politics" in contemporary society have been paralleled by a corresponding literature in the social sciences on the nature of "identity" as a social construct or process, in which a choice is often made between "subjective" vs. "objective" approaches that are ultimately rooted in Cartesian dualism. This dissertation takes a different approach to the analysis of ethnic identity--one that is rooted in the philosophy of C. S. Peirce, which transcends Cartesian dualism by offering a semeiotic notion of the self.

          The particular ethnic group considered is the "urban Indian" community of Flint, Michigan. The political-economic history of Flint as a deindustrializing Midwestern city has shaped its demographics such that the contemporary American Indian population there falls into three main categories: (1) those who grew up on reservations or in other non-urban Indian home communities; (2) those who grew up in households where the parents grew up in such a community; and, (3) those who now, as adults, choose to identify themselves as Native American, but who grew up in households where the parents had no connection to an Indian home community.

          The dissertation argues that Native home communities constitute key sites for the formation of an American Indian identity which is then reinforced as those who grew up in such communities continue to interact with one another. Looking at both the official and informal Institution:s of Flint's urban Indian community, and at the Indian home communities from which some people came, the dissertation considers various kinds of "Indianness." Emphasis is given to the most subtle manifestations--the values, habits, and practices that characterize the daily interactions of those who grew up in non-urban Indian home communities. A semeiotic notion of the self is utilized to clarify and illuminate these highly significant, yet often overlooked, aspects of American Indian identity. An essential connection is therefore shown between identity and community.






Accession No:     AAG9840561

Provider:        OCLC

Database:         Dissertations