William M. Clements taught cultural anthropology, folklore studies, literature, and American Indian studies at Arkansas State University. A Fellow of the American Folklore Society, he has published several books, articles, book chapters, and reviews in folklore, popular culture, history, literature, and American Indian studies.
Imagining Geronimo: An Apache Icon in Popular Cultureby William M. Clements
His face has appeared on T-shirts, postage stamps, jigsaw puzzles, posters, and an Andy Warhol print. A celebrity and a tourist attraction who attended three World's Fairs and rode in President Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade, he is a character in such classic westerns as Stagecoach and Broken Arrow. His name was used in the daring military/em>/em>
His face has appeared on T-shirts, postage stamps, jigsaw puzzles, posters, and an Andy Warhol print. A celebrity and a tourist attraction who attended three World's Fairs and rode in President Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade, he is a character in such classic westerns as Stagecoach and Broken Arrow. His name was used in the daring military operation that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, and rumors about the location of his skull at a Yale University club have circulated for a century. These are just a few of the ways that the Apache shaman and war leader known to Anglo-Americans as Geronimo has remained alive in the mainstream American imagination and beyond.
Clements's study samples the repertoire of Geronimo stories and examines Americans' changing sense of Geronimo in terms of traditional patterns--trickster social bandit, patriot chief, sage elder, and culture hero. He looks at the ways in which Geronimo tried with mixed results to maintain control of his own image during more than twenty years in which he was a prisoner of war. Also examined are Geronimo's ostensible conversion to Christianity and his image in photography and literature.
- University of New Mexico Press
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By the time Geronimo died in 1909, the popularization of him was already well advanced, giving the Chiricahua Apache leader legendary status; thus assuring he would have continuing status in popular culture, to at a later time as this work evidences eventually become a subject for a scholarly study. Among the college-level subjects Clements has taught are cultural anthropology, folklore, and Native American studies. In an interdisciplinary approach, Clements explores the "canonization" of Geronimo, using the term that in academia is similar to "popularization" in media studies for example. While Clements regularly refers to known facts of Geronimo's life to locate a source for or start a thread-like analysis of one of the portraits of Geronimo since the latter 1800s when he became a subject of popular culture largely through the national and foreign newspapers of the day for his struggle against the U.S. military in the Southwest, one cannot go so far to say that the image is grounded in or even much reflected in the facts of Geronimo's life. Not much detail is known about his life, and much of what has been reported as fact is seen by many as little more than conjecture. Additionally, Geronimo embellished or purposely omitted aspects of his life and activities, showing himself to have a canny, showman-like sense of public relations. This served him well as a main attraction of three World Fair's and many Wild West shows and even an appearance in President Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration parade. Since the Apaches themselves had an ambivalent regard of Geronimo and there were no biographical records to speak of, it is inevitable that he would have a protean image in popular culture depending on changing social and political interests and perspectives. A work such as this, as the author says, is media/cultural studies, not history or biography. Clements does such a book on this major figure of popular culture in a unflaggingly entertaining and informative manner.