The Prussian quasi-colonial attempt to annihilate Polish language and culture in the late 19th century has time and again been conflated with the vanishing of another ethnic group—namely, that of Native Americans. The Polish discourse responds to the Germanization discourse—for example, by using symbolic Indian-ness. In his 1864 essay “The Poles and the Indians”Ludwik Powidaj equates the Indians with the Polish as he sees both as victims of a forced process of civilization.The best-known application of the German negative heterostereotype of the Polish Indian was called into existence by Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846–1916), a pioneer traveler to North America, who received the Nobel Prize in 1905.
In my talk I use Sienkiewicz’s Sachem (1883) as apoint of reference and argue that this novella can be read as a depiction of the impotent rage of the colonized and at the same time as a provocative game directed at the colonizer’s fear of revenge, i.e. a (Polish) revolt. The conclusion, which draws on Homi K. Bhabha, is that a forced mimicry, even one performed at the circus, also holds the potential of ambivalence and remains a latent threat.
Prof. Dirk Uffelmann will be in residence at Puget Sound for the month of Sept. Please join us and support the Puget Sound – Passau Faculty Exchange!
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