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Pale face, red mask: racial ambiguity and the imitation of 'American Indian' facial expressions

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alastair Bonnett



Drawing on examples of white imitation, this article discusses the racialization of facial expression. Taking the white imitator Grey Owl as my principal example, I argue that the employment of facial expressions as racial symbols is beset by a tenacious ambiguity. The genesis of the stern yet fierce "Indian look" is discussed in the context of the employment and deployment of the "noble savage" within European primitivism and racism. The article concludes with an account of Grey Owl's capacity to look "more Indian than an Indian" and his redemption as a hero of environmentalism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bonnett A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cultural Politics

Year: 2006

Volume: 2

Issue: 3

Pages: 319-338

ISSN (print): 1743-2197

ISSN (electronic): 1751-7435


DOI: 10.2752/174321906778531655


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