Cartographies of Desire: Captivity, Race, and Sex in the Shaping of an American Nation

Cartographies of Desire: Captivity, Race, and Sex in the Shaping of an American Nation

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Author: Rebecca Blevin Faery 

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (1999)

In Cartographies of Desire, Rebecca Faery argues that two recurring literary and cultural figures—the white woman taken captive by Indians and the welcoming Indian maiden—have played a key role in constructing the geographic and ideological maps of the United States. Across contested territory, symbolized by the woman's body, concepts of race and sex have helped shape the evolving American identity. Faery shows that the colonizers' desire for land fused with their desire for Native women. Likewise, the effort to "protect" white women from the presumed desire of dark men, Indian and African, became an insistence on the colonists' right to guard territory taken or desired.

Using Mary Rowlandson's 1682 captivity narrative and the Pocahontas stories introduced in chronicles of early seventeenth-century Virginia, Faery demonstrates how the two female figures have been invoked and elaborated in numerous texts and settings as America's image of itself has evolved through three centuries. The imaginative sweep of the text presents the reader with a fresh look at the political, racial, and sexual implications of stories about white women captured by Indians and about Indian women captured, colonized, and reinterpreted by Anglo culture. Placing racial and cultural conflict in context, Faery illuminates the origins and evolution of America's subtle but persistent attempts to assert itself as a white nation.