Sturm, Circe 1967-

views updated

Sturm, Circe 1967-


Born July 24, 1967, in Houston, TX; married, 1993. Education: University of Texas, B.A., 1991; University of California, 1994, Ph.D., 1997.


Office—Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma, 455 W. Lindsey, Dale Hall Tower 521, Norman, OK 73019. E-mail—[email protected].


Associated with University of California, 1993-96; University of Oklahoma, Norman, began as adjunct assistant professor, became professor, 1992—.


National Science Foundation grant, 1992-96; University of California fellowship, 1992-96; travel grants, University of Oklahoma, 1997, 1998.


Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (nonfiction), University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.

Contributor to books, including Maya Cultural Activism: (Re)Making History, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1996; and Confounding the Color Line: Native American-African American Relations in Historical and Anthropological Perspective, 1998.


Circe Sturm is a professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma whose special areas of interest include Native American studies, Maya culture, race and ethnicity, and indigenous languages and writing. In her book Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, she explores the subject of Cherokee identity—what it means, and where it is found. Identification as a member of the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans has many meanings. To be federally recognized as a Cherokee, there must be a specific percentage of an individual's ancestry that can be traced to Cherokee ancestors. There are physical characteristics, religious beliefs and practices, social and community practices, and many other factors that play into identification with the Cherokee Nation. Originally, the Cherokees were a system of clans, linked by maternal lines, based in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The influence of the U.S. government has had a profound impact on the understanding of Cherokee identity, however. By the twentieth century, they were officially divided into three tribes: the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band, and, in North Carolina, the Eastern Band. This means that some people who strongly identify as Cherokee are not officially identified as such because their percentage of Cherokee ancestry is too low, or because they do not live within the areas officially designated as Cherokee territory. Sturm analyzes the shift from cultural identity to bureaucratic classification and what it has meant to the people involved. Issues relating to people of mixed blood are explored, as are decisions about marriage, and the status of former slaves of the Cherokees, who were historically considered part of the Cherokee Nation. This, she notes, illustrates a key issue in the question of what defines membership in the Cherokee Nation. If slaves taken by the Cherokees, who had zero percentage of Cherokee blood, were defined as being within the Cherokee Nation, then membership was clearly based on issues other than "race" or "blood." Sturm questions if, considering this historical tradition, modern Cherokees could decide to adopt members who do not meet U.S. federal standards for Cherokee identity into their membership. She discusses the semantics of the words "white," "black," and "Cherokee," noting that "black" seems to overrule Cherokee-ness, while "white" blood in a person's background carries a connotation of a less-than-pure Cherokee. Reviewing this book for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Margaret Bender stated: "This book is recommended for courses in Indian studies and race and ethnicity, and for those seeking an insightful overview of the complex identity politics in the largest Indian tribe in the United States."



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, November 1, 2002, L. Graves, review of Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, p. 514.

Comparative Studies in Society and History, January 1, 2003, Nancy Shoemaker, review of Blood Politics, p. 217.

Journal of American Ethnic History, summer, 2003, Terri M. Baker, review of Blood Politics, p. 108.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March 1, 2006, Margaret Bender, review of Blood Politics, p. 234.

Journal of the West, summer, 2003, Melissa Vincent, review of Blood Politics, p. 92.

Western Historical Quarterly, summer, 2003, Theda Perdue, review of Blood Politics, p. 221.


University of Oklahoma Web site, (August 11, 2008), biographical information about Circe Sturm.