by Solen Roth. University of British Columbia Press, November 2018. 228 p. ill. ISBN 9780774837392 (pbk), $32.95.
Reviewed March 2019
Incorporating Culture, by Solen Roth, a postdoctoral researcher active in cultural anthropology for over ten years, details the history and evolution of the Northwest Coast artware industry. Roth defines “‘artware’ as products that could be left blank but instead are decorated with an artistic motif.” In this case, the motifs are Native American cultural images from the Pacific coast of northern California, north through Canada, and into Alaska. Roth adeptly illustrates the multifaceted nature of many of the industry's controversial issues, especially with regard to topics in the following chapters: “Expansion | Protection,” “Globalization | Localization,” “Property (and) Stewardship,” “Accumulation | Redistribution.”
Roth shares her extensive knowledge of the field supplemented by the perspectives of many industry participants and stakeholders. She equitably presents multiple opposing viewpoints on key issues of contention. This text presents historical field information and Roth's own ethnographic research. She addresses a wide array of topics and synthesizes them in this monograph, giving it far reaching value. While a more concise text could have been written, it may not have allowed for all of the intricacies of such controversial issues to have been adequately expressed. In this text, since some subjects requested anonymity, Roth made the choice to anonymize input from all individual sources. While this choice is clearly explained, it sometimes allows for ambiguity. Topics are appropriately divided into chapters, which enables the reader to approach them individually.
The writing is scholarly, with some complicated sentences, rendering this book more appropriate for an advanced audience of researchers and academics. Some basic knowledge of economic principles would be helpful for potential readers. There are not many visuals included in the book. Each chapter opens with a black and white image of Northwest Coast artware, but additional illustrations or reproductions are not included. Though the book is not lacking without supplementary images, they might have added value to it.
The index, notes, and bibliographies are all quite impressive in their inclusivity. Specifically, the “Other Sources” section of the bibliography would be a very helpful resource for scholars seeking information on related topics.
The physical design of the book works well. The paperback format would have significant life on library loans, and its small size also makes the dense text possibly more readable than it would be in a larger format. Pages are appropriately thick and held by a solidly glued spine.
Incorporating Culture provides a solid history of the growth of Northwest Coast artware industry and is recommended to academic or research libraries within that scope.