Edward Curtis, The North American Indian and Moral Tragedy

What moral obligations do we have when viewing and disseminating images that have been implicated in the marginalization of social groups?

Project Abstract

Edward Curtis’ renowned work The North American Indian (1930) is a twenty volume set of books that Curtis claimed was a comprehensive record of indigenous people in North America. Some defend it as an essential record of indigenous culture. Others think it fundamentally misrepresents Native Peoples, furthering the myth of Native Americans as a vanishing race. Lewis & Clark obtained a complete set in 2016. We are studying it to understand how Curtis combined early ethnography and photography. We are using it as a case-study to better understand how science and technology often combine to have morally damaging effects.

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