AMS 321 • Cultural Heritage on Display
9:00 AM-10:00 AM
This course is designed to take you behind the scenes in the public construction, negotiation, and display of "traditional American folk culture" by focusing on a number of popular touristic sites of folklife production in the public sphere. In particular, the course will examine the political economy of fairs, folk festivals, theme parks and folklife exhibitions as contested sites of heritage production in American historyfocusing especially on those moments when an almost crusade-like obsession with defining and displaying the true American folk becomes an active agent in the process of nation building and ideological construction. Through discussions, readings, films, slides, and field trips, we will explore the questions, "Who are the folk? What is folklife? and What does it mean to exhibit folklife on display?" To answer these questions, we will focus closely on the histories and agencies of specific sites of folk cultural production and display, paying close attention to the problematic relationship of their objects to the instruments of their display. Each student will have the opportunity to participate directly in the process of creating and/or critiquing the process of cultural heritage productionincluding conducting original field research in a folk community; planning and designing a specific mode of display; and providing a critical analysis of this or an historic example of cultural heritage production.
Possible Texts Ivan Karp and Stephen Lavine, eds.: Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display Freund Thatcher: Objects of Desire: The Life of Antiques and Those Who Pursue Them Boswell, David and Jessica Evans, eds.: Representing the Nation: A Reader in Heritage and Museums Cantwell, Robert: Ethnomimesis: Folklife and the Representation of Culture Additional texts to be determined.