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Book cover: Studies in Symbolic Interaction

Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISSN: 0163-2396
Series editor(s): Professor Norman Denzin

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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Thinking against/after chief Illiniwek

Document Information:
Title:Thinking against/after chief Illiniwek
Author(s):C. Richard King
Volume:34 Editor(s): Norman K. Denzin ISBN: 978-1-84950-960-2 eISBN: 978-1-84950-961-9
Citation:C. Richard King (2010), Thinking against/after chief Illiniwek, in Norman K. Denzin (ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 34), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.3-7
DOI:10.1108/S0163-2396(2010)0000034003 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item

Since its inception in 1926, the tradition of playing Indian at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (UIUC) has fostered powerful devotion and deep affection, creating powerful spaces of identification and narration for thousands of (largely EuroAmerican) students, fans, and community members. Embodied by Chief Illiniwek, this tradition had proven popular and pleasurable for more than 60 years when a small, but persistent, collection of students and faculty began challenging the prevailing uses and understandings of Indianness at UIUC. At first, these interventions appeared awkward and idiosyncratic as they worked to unsettle established interpretations and preferred practices. Over time, a vital and creative counter-hegemonic movement crystallized, fostering protest, internal efforts at reform, and critical scholarship. In conjunction with a broader, national movement (see King, 2010), these local initiatives culminated in a policy change by the National Collegiate Athletic Association that would eventually prompt UIUC, after initial resistance, to retire Chief Illiniwek. Nevertheless, alumni, fans, and several media outlets not only continued to defend the schools mascot, but went so far as to celebrate it as well. Indeed, almost immediately after Chief Illiniwek performed for the last time, the local paper in Champaign-Urbana released a volume commemorating the mascot and its import (Foreman, 2007). As much of the media and public has mourned for their “Indian” and longed for their lost traditions, they have silenced and marginalized local and national network of resistance intent to re/claim dignity, humanity, and community.

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