Alumnus Shupe Wins Dissertation Award

Alumnus Shupe Wins Dissertation Award
Geronimo at the Miller brothers' 101 Ranch, 1905

Kevin Shupe (Ph.D. 2011) has won the Westerners International Scholarship Award, a $1000 cash award given to a graduate student member of Phi Alpha Theta for the Best Doctoral Dissertation in Western History. The annual award is presented at the Phi Alpha Theta Luncheon during the Western History Association fall meeting—this year in Denver, Colorado.

Shupe's dissertation, "Geronimo Escapes: Envisioning Indianness in Modern America," won in what the judges described as an "exceedingly close" competition.

Shupe has described his work in the dissertation abstract:

Appearing at three world’s fairs and as a subject in wildly popular photographs, postcards, and countless newspaper articles, there is little doubt that Geronimo was the most renowned Indian at the turn of the twentieth century. Geronimo Escapes is the first in-depth scholarly analysis that looks beyond early events in his life to examine the era in which he performed in public and served as a symbolic figure in white cultural productions. Instead of focusing on military conflicts or Indian identity, I analyze the war of stories and those individuals who attempted to control public portrayals of Indians, by which they hoped to control land and resources, moral and intellectual authority, military and political power.

Using a narratological examination of the stories told about Geronimo from his first step into the national spotlight in 1876 to his death in 1909, this study elucidates a crucial period in the re-imagining of “Indianness.” During those years, a wide range of individuals and institutions adopted a variety of narrative patterns, plot devices, and discourse strategies in attempts to construct and transmit ideas of cultural difference that justified their ideologies regarding the treatment and understanding of Indians. I specifically examine wild west shows and western mythology, Indian reform, and the human sciences of anthropology and sociology to show that these three separate discursive practices shared crucial affinities in deploying opinions about Geronimo and Indians more generally. These groups most notably embraced a socially constructed image of culture in place of an older ideology of individualism. I chart this shift by scrutinizing the perspectives of such leaders as the ethnologist James Mooney, Indian educator Samuel M. McCowan, educational sociologist S. M. Barrett, wild west show entrepreneur Frederick T. Cummins, and U. S. President and historian Theodore Roosevelt. Each of these individuals constructed and used new cultural narratives to challenge older structures of understanding.

Professor Paula Petrik advised the dissertation and was joined on Shupe's dissertation committee by Professor Michael O'Malley of Mason and Dr. Frank Goodyear of the National Portrait Gallery.