search : contact us : about us : site guide : home

  University of British Columbia Press
 Search Our Catalogue
  search by subject

 UBC Press
About UBC Press
Conferences & Events
Contact Us
Media Centre
Publishing With UBC Press
Publishers Represented
Staff Directory

Forthcoming Titles
How To Order
Recent Reviews
Review Copies

 Join Our Mailing List
Sign Up
Privacy Statement
Frequent Questions
Privacy Statement
Site Guide
Website Feedback

 Featured Title
Art, Ownership, and Nuxalk National Identity
Jennifer Kramer  

$87.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 3/7/2006
ISBN: 9780774812276    

$32.95 Paperback
Release Date: 1/1/2007
ISBN: 9780774812283    

168 Pages


About the Book

Switchbacks explores how the Nuxalk of Bella Coola, British Columbia, negotiate such complex questions as: Who owns culture? How should culture be transmitted to future generations? Where does selling and buying Nuxalk art fit into attempts to regain control of heritage?

To answer these questions, Jennifer Kramer undertook participant observation at Nuxalk artists’ studios, in the Nuxalk-run band school’s cultural education classes, and during the everyday activities of Nuxalk in their homes. She charts the fluid character of tangible material culture (such as masks and other regalia) and intangible material culture (such as songs and dances) as they moved in and out of the cultural education curriculum, the Western art market, and the Western legal system. In addition, Kramer analyzes the ambivalent reactions of the Nuxalk to ownership, appropriation, and repatriation of Nuxalk culture. The Nuxalk oscillate between essential stances, a process Kramer likens to "switchbacks" on a mountain road. Through these recurrent movements they create, recreate, and validate contemporary Nuxalk identity.

Kramer demonstrates that loss of cultural objects proves that Nuxalk culture is valuable through external affirmation. In this way, the Nuxalk use their cultural patrimony to assert their collective national identity. At stake are not only definitions of alienable and inalienable property but also a unified national identity that affords the Nuxalk a strong position from whence to reclaim traditional territory and regain self-determination in British Columbia.

Switchbacks will appeal to scholars and students interested in questions of cultural ownership and identity in general, and in Nuxalk culture in particular.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kramer holds a joint position at the University of British Columbia as Curator of Northwest Coast Ethnology at the Museum of Anthropology and as Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology.

Table of Contents



Prologue: The Repatriation of the Nuxalk Echo Mask

1. Introduction

2. The History of Bella Coola: A History of Theft

3. "Selling Out" or "Buying In"? Identity Politics and Art Objectification in Bella Coola

4. Privileged Knowledge versus Public Education: Tensions at Acwsalcta, the Nuxalk Nation "Place of Learning"

5. Physical and Figurative Repatriation: Case Studies of the Nuxalk Echo Mask and the Nuxalk Sun Mask

6. Theft Inside and Out: The Making of a Theory

7. Conclusions: Articulating Nuxalk National Identity





Kramer’s observations [are] enlightening, challenging, and exciting to read.
—Judith Ostrowitz, BC Studies, No. 152, Winter 2006-2007

Jennifer Kramer’s finely-argued, provocative, and far-reaching book, based on extensive fieldwork, is concerned with the circulation of objects and the production of value. It focuses on traditional and contemporary tribal ‘‘art’’ in a sustained dialectical analysis of intercultural process and power. …She presumes no unified, normative ‘‘tribal’’ position, but evokes a history of alliances, tensions, silences, and performances that both link and separate diverse insiders and outsiders. …Switchbacks is rare in its sustained focus on this predicament and in the complex, historically specific, analysis that it provides.
- James Clifford, University of California, Museum Anthropology, Vol.31, No.1, 2008

Kramer’s research makes an important contribution to analyses of the intersections between global flows of commodities and the production of a national identity “at home.” …Kramer’s ethnography is a well-researched and enjoyable read. It is written in accessible, jargon-free language, which makes it particularly suitable for upper level undergraduate courses on themes such as material culture theory, cultural appropriation, nationalism, indigenous art and globalization. Kramer also does an excellent job of contextualizing her work within broader theoretical concerns on exchange theory, and she clearly demonstrates for readers how material culture can play a critical role in the production of national identities. … I highly recommend her book for both anthropology students and researchers interested in issues of material culture and national identity production.
- Karen McGarry, Trent University, Anthropologica, Issue 50, 2008

Switchbacks will interest a wide range of readers, serving as an excellent textbook for upper-level and graduate anthropological courses. … In a relatively short text, Kramer accomplishes much of value. She demonstrates the importance of acknowledging complexities and process when examining human situations.
- Victoria Wyatt, University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. 77, No. 1, Winter 2008

Jennifer Kramer succeeds in showing the nuances of the shifting relationship between individual ownership and national identity. […] Kramer covers the topic of cultural revival particularly well. We are left no doubt that this is a community in the midst of change, described here in all its ugly complexity […]. The reflexivity of this book is most refreshing. Readers are engaged not only with topics of anthropological study, but also with the fieldworker herself. We are given enough information to be able to understand the ethical dilemmas she faced, and how she went about resolving them, which makes the book all the more stimulating. Kramer is persuasive in tying Nuxalk attitudes towards ownership, theft, and loss to socio-historical influences. She describes the sometimes conflicting demands of personal right and community identity in a readable and informative way, and her invocation of the ‘switchbacks’ metaphor works well for illustrating the general themes of the book. All in all, this is an interesting and enjoyable read.
- Ian Ewart, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, Journal of Museum Ethnography, No.20, 2008

Sample Chapter

Front Matter and Chapter One

Related Topics

Aboriginal Studies
BC Studies
Native Studies > Canada
Cultural Studies
BC Studies > Native Studies

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Switchbacks from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
5201 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

Phone orders: 1(800)565-9523 or (416)667-7791
Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832

Ordering information for customers outside Canada

© 2001 UBC Press
2029 West Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6T 1Z2
t. 604.822.5959 | f. 604.822.6083 | e.
Vancouver Web Design by Internet-Exposure