Imperialist Nostalgia Masking a Claim of Colonizer Innocence
Clay Jenkinson, a writer for The Brismark Tribune, published a piece on February 27, 2011, regarding the reaction he received from a lecture he previously gave at Bemidji State College in Minnesota. His lecture pertained to “U.S government Indian policy since the time of Lewis and Clark” (Jenkinson 1). As he wrote in the official newspaper for the state of North Dakota, the audience began with only a few senior citizens, then filled to more than 200 people, “quite a few of them Ojibwe Indians” (1). Jenkinson’s writings about this event portray an underling sense of imperialist nostalgia, a concept explained by Renato Rosaldo in his piece, “Imperialist Nostalgia.” This mood of nostalgia makes racial domination and colonization appear innocent and pure through a reflective mourning of what has happened, done by the one who caused these things to happen. Though Jenkinson’s article may be meant as a piece to condemn the actions of European colonizers, when read through Rosaldo’s lens of imperialist nostalgia, Jenkinson’s claims skew history and inadvertently seek innocence by perpetuating the main points of imperialist nostalgia, including adoptive paternity and the practice of mourning what one killed themselves, while still bragging about it.
Jenkinson’s first instance of imperialist nostalgia occurs as he defends the actual content of his lecture, in which he perpetuates the notion of the colonizer assuming adoptive paternity to give an air of innocence. In regard to his lecture, Jenkinson says that the theme was “the remarkable resilience of Native Americans in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.” He continues that “against these seemingly impossible odds, with...
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... claims humanitarian imperialism, he relegates native people into a subordinate group. Then, he justifies the actions of European settlers by presenting what they did in an “uncensored” way that also did not disguise his bias. Finally, he recognizes the change and mourns it rather than outright acknowledging how the change has benefitted him and doing something about it. Noticing these signs of imperialist nostalgia in this text are significant for readers so that they realize the credibility of the piece they are reading. The audience may also more deeply understand how their own thoughts can unintentionally fall into the category of imperialist nostalgia. Jenkinson’s article, read through Rosaldo’s lens of imperialist nostalgia, shows a skew view of history that inadvertently seeks innocence of the colonizer by perpetuating the main points of imperialist nostalgia.
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