SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Thoreau and the Agencies of Place

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Some have argued that Native and European Americans learned much from each other along the border. In this paper, I examine the fate of indigenous influence in the mid-19th century by considering the work of Henry David Thoreau. I proceed in two sections. In the first section, I will discuss two central aspects of the border tradition that emerged between Native and European cultures: its conceptions of place and agency. In the second section, I consider the later work of Henry David Thoreau as an example of the character of the declining influence of Native thought on 19th century American philosophy. On one hand, Thoreau adopted a philosophy of place that seems to emerge directly from his experiences with Native Americans. On the other hand, he overtly sets aside the Native conception of relational agency in favor of a romantic conception of individuals over against both nature and civilization.


Scott Pratt    
University of Oregon
United States


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