This article is informed by recent work by the author unearthing the histories of Native American Indian Freemasons from the revolutionary era to the present. Given that performed ritual has always been key to Masonic practice, it was initially supposed that Indian performance within Masonry could be explained using the same performative analytical lens that has recently been applied to various other aspects of the American and American Indian past. However, this research reveals that the performance paradigm has important limitations when applied in colonial or post-colonial contexts and that these have a particular significance when we evaluate the Native American fraternal experience of Freemasonry. This article explores the specifics of recent “performative” analyses and argues that whilst performance offers potentially revealing and enabling new means of comprehending Indian and non-Indian interaction, it also carries with it risks against which we must remain vigilant. It argues that the performance paradigm is useful only to the extent to which it can differentiate between positive cultural interaction and negative cultural appropriation. It concludes by suggesting that it is only when we conceive of culture as being essentially imaginative that performance as an analytical paradigm fully functions.
Porter, J. (2013). Native American Indian freemasonry and its relation to the performative turn within contemporary American scholarship. Journal of American Studies, 47(2), 439-458. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875812000795