An Exploration into the nature of Stories and Canada

2:4 – Lutz’s Assumption

photo-1466522016863-25afc3d7d2f7We began this unit by discussing assumptions and differences that we carry into our class. In “First Contact as Spiritual Performance,” Lutz makes an assumption about his readers (Lutz, “First Contact” 32). He asks us to begin with the assumption that comprehending the performances of the Indigenous participants is “one of the most obvious difficulties.” He explains that this is so because “one must of necessity enter a world that is distant in time and alien in culture, attempting to perceive indigenous performance through their eyes as well as those of the Europeans.” Here, Lutz is assuming either that his readers belong to the European tradition, or he is assuming that it is more difficult for a European to understand Indigenous performances – than the other way around. What do you make of this reading? Am I being fair when I point to this assumption? If so, is Lutz being fair when he makes this assumption?

I think that it is fair to say that when Lutz discusses how “one must of necessity enter a world that is distant in time and alien in culture” (32) he is making an assumption. However, I would disagree with the above statement as to what this assumption is. Rather than assuming the reader is European, or that it is harder for a European to understand Indigenous performances than the other way around, I interpret Lutz’s statement as assuming that his readers are simply more familiar with European performances.


In many ways, I think this is a fair assumption to make.


European performances are present throughout Canadian culture, and I presume globally as well. This seems to be true regardless of whether the individuals involved identify as European. From the way we greet each other (like in this somewhat bizarre guide from SDSU), to the way we eat, to the TV shows and movies we watch, all these performances are suffused with European traditions. Other traditions are certainly present, but European dominates. If we accept this premise, it follows that European performances are more accessible to the average person than those from other traditions, including Indigenous performances. Lutz’s assumption that his reader would find it more challenging to “[comprehend] the performances of the indigenous performances” (32) then seems to be justified.

However, at first glance Lutz’s assumption does appear to fail in some ways, most notably if the reader is themselves Indigenous. Surely then this individual would be more familiar with Indigenous performances than European ones? I’m not sure.

I don’t in any way presume to speak for others, particularly not for a group of people as diverse as the Indigenous peoples, but I know that in my own life I find that popular culture has made me more familiar with cultural traditions that aren’t my own. My family is Jewish, but growing up in a predominately Christian country, surrounded by Christian friends and movies centered on Christian protagonists, I am much more familiar with the Christian tradition and performance than with that of my own family. It’s possible then, that individuals from traditions other than European might still be most familiar with European performances, further supporting the veracity of Lutz’s assumption.

I do take some issue with Lutz’s assumption however, but not in regard to the relative accessibility of Indigenous or European cultures. I struggle with his oversimplification of multiple cultures and methods of performance into two groups: European and Indigenous. In reality, each of these groups contain a multitude of diverse traditions, some of which may be more or less easily understood by a given reader. This tendency to simplify a complex relationship is reminiscent of the orality-literacy dichotomy I discussed in a previous blog, and seems to be a part of our human tendency towards simplicity.


While Lutz’s assumption isn’t perfect, I think it is potentially accurate for the majority of his readers, and even if inaccurate serves a valuable function. In making this assumption, Lutz might be leaning a little too far in treating the performances of Indigenous peoples as “alien” (32), but by creating this dichotomy between Indigenous and European performances, Lutz makes the reader aware of the biases he might be bringing to his readings of these performances. Therefore, I think Lutz is justified in making this assumption. I’ll be the first to acknowledge however, that this assessment is based solely on my subjective ranking of unquantifiable pros and cons. I am interested to see how others might weigh these tradeoffs differently.


Works Cited

“Basic Rules of Table Manners.” , Table Manners, Food & Drink, Etiquette and Style. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2016.

Lutz, John. “First Contact as a Spiritual Performance: Aboriginal — Non-Aboriginal Encounters on the North American West Coast.” Myth and Memory: Rethinking Stories of Indigenous-European Contact. Ed. Lutz. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 2007. 30-45. Print.

Mysticalfan4. “Snow White ~ Snow White’s Prayer ~ Snow White Fandub HD (1080p).” YouTube. YouTube, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 22 June 2016.

Sdsuamericanlanguage. “How to Greet Someone (Formally).” YouTube. YouTube, 19 June 2014. Web. 22 June 2016.

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