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Aldred L. 
“Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality”. 
American Indian Quarterly. 2000 Summer;24(3):329-352.
Commercial exploitation of Native American spiritual traditions has permeated the New Age movement since its emergence in the 1980s. Euro-Americans professing to be medicine people have profited from publications and workshops. Mass quantities of products promoted as "Native American sacred objects" have been successfully sold by white entrepreneurs to a largely non-Indian market. This essay begins with an overview of these acts of commercialization as well as Native Americans' objections to such practices. Its real focus, however, is the motivation behind the New Agers' obsession and consumption of Native American spirituality. Why do New Agers persist in consuming commercialized Native American spirituality? What kinds of self-articulated defenses do New Agers offer for these commercial practices? To answer these questions, analysis from a larger social and economic perspective is needed to further understand the motivations behind New Age consumption.
Comments and Responses to this Article
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Bia Labate
Apr 17, 2011 1:59
Paper Shows an Activist Perspective #

I liked this paper, it is important to show that there is a lot of naivete and stereotyping in the new age universe. I particularly like the post-modernism framing, as well as the idea that our 'identities' are not built as 'consumer products'. On the other hand, I found the text too activist and judgmental, as with its use of terms like 'plastic shamans', which dilute the power of the author's analysis. Aldred seems against everything and all regarding appropriations of Native American indian images. But we live in a hybrid world, these exchanges have been going on for decades. I think it also takes away the power of the indigenous peoples as active subjects, because some of these indians are themselves engaged in new age practices. Of course, you could argue that this is because they don't have many options (because they are oppressed and have few economic opportunities...). It also puts all kinds of new age manifestations at the same level, and there are great differences inside this field. But the main question that is left is that it is complicated to see culture as something 'essential' and 'permanent'. In the end, it seems that the author would be against change in all senses, since indigenous communities are also changing... Anyway, I suppose it is good that someone is taking this more activist discourse, it is a necessary part of the debate, too.
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