An anthropological reinterpretation of contact, conflict, and crisis at Oka 1990 : from Western authority to post-modernity

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Correia, Maria de la Salette
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The Oka crisis is the departure point for a study of prolonged and sustained contact between cultures. Based upon a central tenet which recognizes the bidirectional nature of contact, the textual body of this thesis is arranged into the following four broad themes: l) nations and nationalism 2) the Indian; 3) the Mohawk; and 4) Oka as a post-modern crisis. The contact that occurred between civilizations in the Western Hemisphere (indeed the contact that occurred between cultures around the world) created a mixed reality of multiple codes, overlapping histories and shared experience and ideology. Nationalism is a product of modern Western ideology. The First Nations became nations in the Western sense through a process of nationalism developed through contact between traditional aboriginal societies and modern European ones. Conversely, the transplanted European culture and society developed into the North American sociocultural complex through contact with the indigenous societies and cultures. By the middle of the twentieth century, well over three quarters of the earth's surface had been colonized. Consequently, Western Civilization attained a privileged position against which all other global nations, societies, institutions or structures were measured. Western epistemology has only recently been challenged by social critics who question the precepts of Western authority. Within the discipline of anthropology, alternate avenues of authority help create a more inclusive portrait of humanity. The postmodern, variously described as an aesthetic trend, a body of theory, or the culture of late capitalism, is ultimately characterized by its absence of master-narratives. The processes of global decolonization and textual deconstruction have created a new economic, political and social reality. Western Civilization has tumbled from its Archimedean position. The critique of colonialism has questioned Western authority and presentation in almost all Western disciplines, including anthropology. In the post-modern age, anthropology now acknowledges the differences within cultures and the similarities between cultures. The formerly colonized continue to criticize and challenge Western authority, representation, and knowledge. The breakdown of Western authority positions Oka as a post-modern crisis and reveals Mohawk society to be complex and heterogenous, struggling against the Canadian nation state and those who still accept the Canadian master-narratives.