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Title: "History is Who We Are": Truth, Community, and Crafting the Past in York, United Kingdom and Northern California and Nevada
Authors: Patten, Emma Catherine
Advisors: Davis, Elizabeth A
Rouse, Carolyn
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Community
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Justice, retribution, service - these were a few of the central values that historical organization members in York, United Kingdom and the "Gold Country" region of the American West (central to the late nineteenth-century Gold Rush) invoked in seeking and disseminating what they deemed to be the “truth” about local history. These locations both feature an unusually high density of historical organizations - including historical societies, museums, and an American Indian colony's Cultural Resources Program - being rich with historical sites, monuments, and tales of local history. However, they are also linked by the rise of "nationalist populist" movements in both locations, such as groups of Trump supporters in the U.S. and "Brexiteers" in the U.K. In my dissertation, "'History is Who We Are': Truth, Community, and Crafting the Past in York, United Kingdom and Northern California and Nevada," I investigate the ways in which the neoliberal political climate spurred historical organization members to forge meaningful social bonds with one another in their pursuit of truth and disparagement of popular “false” narratives of history. I utilize a comparative analysis of historical organizations in the two locations to answer a series of questions: How does a finely-honed understanding of local history color the moral, social, and political worlds of organization members? How do these organizations assimilate and mobilize different forms of knowledge? And how do members' perceptions of truth mediate their moral positions on history and their social bonds? Through two years of ethnographic research I traced historical organization members' worlds, from their fierce disputes over human remains to their engagement with myth to their support for or objection to current political trends - such as Native American efforts to influence legislation in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. Through examining my interlocutors' use of historical evidence, along with their forging, reevaluation, and transmission of historical narratives, I probe their rationales for engaging with history. I ultimately trace this reasoning to their shared, deep-seated moralizing contentions about history and community, their sense of holding a public trust, and their need to achieve vindication for ancestors and historic figures.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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