Remembering our town: social memory, folklore, and (trans) locality in three ethnic neighborhoods in Boston
Buccitelli, Anthony Bak
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Through case studies of three Boston-area neighborhoods, East Boston, South Boston, and North Quincy, this dissertation examines the vernacular memory practices of the residents of historically ethnic neighborhoods to show the ways in which everyday representations of the past allow individuals to strategically negotiate a meaningful sense of shared identity. Using field interviews, vernacular digital sources, previously recorded oral histories, amateure historical texts, memoirs, and other expressive memory works, this study examines locally produced representations of historical identity that range from the social imagining of translocal past to personal memories of neighborhood life that are deeply rooted in an understanding of local space as ethnic place. Chapters One through Three trace the scholarly literature on space and place, social memory, and folklore studies in order to demonstrate the way in which, through a process of selection and emphasis, local folk histories have often been used to strategically reaffirm the connection between contested spaces and a certain ethnic identity. They further show how individuals use their own personal narrative repertoire to situate themselves within these traditionalized or naturalized understandings of neighborhood space. Chapters Four and Five explore a variety of contests and conflicts over the traditionalized sense of space and place examined in the initial chapters. Developing the notion that cultural symbols, such as the shamrock or the flag of the People's Republic of China, and practices, such as the celebrations surrounding Columbus Day or the Autumn Moon Festival, can bring together or "index" a variety of identity constructs, these chapters demonstrate the ways that these symbols can be strategically deployed in order to build or disrupt traditionalized understandings of the connections between neighborhoods and ethnic identity. Finally, Chapter Six suggests that, as a result of the emerging vernacular use of geospatial media technologies, the cultural symbols, narratives, and practices that are integral to the construction of local conceptual maps can now be accessed virtually. This makes available the possibility that meaningful local identities can be formed by actors who are interacting with these traditional understandings of local place virtually but who are not physically present in local spaces.
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