Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Long Quote: Trading The Other

[T]he people and their culture, the material and the spiritual, the exotic and the fantastic, became not just the stuff of dreams and imagination, or stereotypes and eroticism but of the first truly global commercial enterprise: trading the Other. This trade had its origins before the Enlightenment, but capitalism and Western culture have transformed earlier trade practices (such as feudal systems of tribute), through the development of native appetites for goods and foreign desires for the strange; the making of labour and consumer markets; the protection of trade routes, markets and practices; and the creation of systems for protecting the power of the rich and maintaining the powerlessness of the poor. Trading the Other is a vast industry based on the positional superiority and advantages gained under imperialism. It is concerned more with ideas, language, knowledge, images, beliefs and fantasies than any other industry. Trading the Other deeply, intimately, defines Western thinking and identity. As a trade, it has no concern for the peoples who originally produced the ideas or images, or with how and why they produced those ways of knowing. It will not, indeed, cannot, return the raw materials from which its products have been made. It no longer has an administrative Head Office with regional offices to which indigenous peoples can go, queue for hours and register complaints which will not be listened to or acted upon.

...Maori indigenous culture is being prepared for trade in the 'new right' economic framework that dominates the New Zealand scene. These include the commodification of such things as: treaty rights, identity, traditional knowledge, traditional customs, traditional organizations, land titles, fauna and flora. While all of these items previously have been the subject of efforts to remove, control and assimilate, the 'new' attacks are aimed at what remains of the indigenous estate and are a very sharp reminder of how control over the agenda, the terms of reference, and the processes for settling the unsettled business of indigenous matters is still held and determined by the colonizing majority. Indigenous peoples who have actively resisted moves to create regional free trade areas as part of the global market place are viewed as a major barrier to free trade. Trading the Other is big business. For indigenous peoples trading ourselves is not on the agenda.

-- Linda Tuhiwai Smith

And though Smith is Maori and she cites the example of her own people, I'm sure examples from North America would differ only in detail.

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