Assistant Professor of Anthropology Reads from First Book
October 2, 2007
SELINSGROVE, (Pa.) - John Bodinger de Uriarte, assistant professor of anthropology at Susquehanna University, will present a free public reading on October 4 from his book about an American Indian tribe's rebirth, and the key role the establishment of a casino played in that process.
“Casino and Museum” looks at some of the significant changes experienced by American Indians over the past 25 years, specifically within the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of southeastern Connecticut, which owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, the largest casino in the world. In addition, the Connecticut tribe established the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center nearby, one of the most innovative and comprehensive centers of its kind in the United States.
"Mashantucket represents the site of one of the most remarkable tribal renaissances in the 20th century," Bodinger de Uriarte said. "To go from a reservation population of two in the 1970s to a current population of over 800, and to open what would eventually become the largest casino in the world over that same time span, is fascinating."
His research for the book began in 1995 with occasional visits to the reservation, followed by a period of more intensive work prior to the casino's opening in 1998.
The reading of “Casino and Museum: Representing Mashantucket Pequot Identity,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Kind Café, 29 N. Market St. in Selinsgrove. The book, Bodinger de Uriarte's first, was released in May by the University of Arizona Press.
Bodinger de Uriarte will begin the reading with a passage he calls “the rainmaker narrative,” describing the creation of the earth and the evolution of its people. The selection is heard at Foxwoods as a voiceover in a multimedia show, which culminates with an indoor thunderstorm every hour in the central atrium of the casino. The centerpiece of the atrium and star of the show is the “Rainmaker” sculpture, a 4,500-pound, 12-foot urethane likeness of an American Indian armed with a bow and arrow.
Accompanied by projected images of stereotypically “native” images of buffalo and arrows, recordings of screeching eagles, automated fog machines and laser bolt lightning, the primordial history might seem out of place in the middle of a Las Vegas-style casino. According to Bodinger de Uriarte, the narrative serves as a schematic for everything that follows in the adjacent museum, and the package of museum and casino traces the continuity of the Indian identity at Mashantucket from the Ice Age to an emerging present and an undetermined future.
Following the reading, Bodinger de Uriarte will remain to sign his work, which will be on hand at a reduced cover price. Refreshments will also be available.
Contact: Francesca Camp