Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through Two Centuries

Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through Two Centuries

by Sergei Kan
     
 

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In Memory Eternal, Sergei Kan combines anthropology and history, anecdote and theory to portray the encounter between the Tlingit Indians and the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska in the late 1700s and to analyze the indigenous Orthodoxy that developed over the next 200 years. As a native speaker of Russian with eighteen years of fieldwork experience among

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Overview

In Memory Eternal, Sergei Kan combines anthropology and history, anecdote and theory to portray the encounter between the Tlingit Indians and the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska in the late 1700s and to analyze the indigenous Orthodoxy that developed over the next 200 years. As a native speaker of Russian with eighteen years of fieldwork experience among the Tlingit, Kan is uniquely qualified to relate little-known material from the archives of the Russian church in Alaska to Tlingit oral history and his own observations. By weighing the one body of evidence against the other, he has reevaluated this history, arriving at a persuasive new concept of "converged agendas"—the view that the Tlingit and the Russians tended to act in mutually beneficial ways but for entirely different reasons throughout the period of their contact with one another.

The Russian-American Company began operations in southeastern Alaska in the 1790s. Against a description of Tlingit culture at the time of the Russians’ arrival, Kan examines Russian Orthodox theology, ritual practice, and missionary methods, and the Tlingit response to them. An uneasy symbiosis characterized the early era of the Russian-American Company, when the trading relationship outweighed any spiritual or social rapprochement.

A second, major focus of Kan’s study is the Tlingit experience with American colonial domination. He attributes a sudden revival of Tlingit interest in Orthodoxy in the 1880s as their attempt to maintain independence in the face of concerted efforts by the newcomers (and especially Presbyterian missionaries) to Americanize them.

Memory Eternal shows the colonial encounter to be both a power struggle and a dialogue between different systems of meaning. It portrays Native Alaskans not as helpless victims but as historical agents who attempted to adjust to the changing reality of their social world without abandoning fundamental principles of their precolonial sociocultural order or their strong sense of self-respect.

Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
This extraordinary book…is a model of historical anthropology.

American Ethnologist
"[Provides] a vivid picture of the engagements between the actors who together contributed to transforming Tlingit culture: the different Tlingit families, the Russian traders, Orthodox and Presbyterian missionaries, Russian and U.S. settlers, and Tlingit women and men.

Library Journal
This book brings together quality ethnography and history to illustrate the impact and dynamics of interaction between the Tlingit people and the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska. Kan, who teaches anthropology and Native American studies at Dartmouth and has over 20 years of research experience with Tlingit Orthodoxy, provides the reader with a detailed exposition of Tlingit culture, economy, society, and history. The text covers important historical events from 1834 to the 1990s: the smallpox epidemic, the sale of Alaska, the large Tlingit conversion to Russian Orthodoxy (1886-95), and the development of Tlingit Orthodoxy as a significant component of their cultural system. Expertly weaving anthropological and ethnographic theory with an understanding of Tlingit traditional beliefs and practices, Kan has written a book that is essential for cultural anthropologists, students of religion, and those deeply interested in the dynamics of traditional belief systems. For academic libraries.--John Dockall, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Kan (anthropology, Dartmouth College) portrays the meeting between the Tlingit Indians and the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska in the late 1700s and analyzes the indigenous Orthodoxy that developed over the next 200 years. Examinations of Russian Orthodox theology, ritual practice, and missionary methods, as well as descriptions of Tlingit culture enhance this story of the synthesis of two cultures. Kan concludes that the Tlingit and Russians tended to act in mutually beneficial ways, but for completely different reasons. He goes on to explore the ways the Tlingit used the Orthodox tradition to resist Americanization with the arrival of Presbyterian missionaries in the 1880s. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780295993867
Publisher:
University of Washington Press
Publication date:
07/01/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
696
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Sergei Kan is professor of anthropology and Native American studies at Dartmouth College.

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