Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fieldwork and writing

While I am in the midst of wrestling with my dissertation, I thought that it would be a good habit to actually write about what I'm doing. In part this will help me think through what I want to put in the dissertation. It will also get the ball rolling and hopefully enable me to just roll right over writer's block (fingers crossed!).

As part of my dissertation work, I have completed most of my fieldwork, but there are still a few site visits that are on the horizon. And I get frequent requests for retelling of some of my more quirky fieldwork adventures. So, this blog will serve to chronicle some of those adventures (although, the stories are much better in person where I engage in wild arm gestures and physical reenactments).

At the moment, I am reading through Ann Denkler's Sustaining Identity, Recapturing Heritage and am loving how much her research corresponds to what I run into with the history and tourism in the Gatlinburg area. The tension between the national park and the surrounding communities, plus the total erasure of African American history from the larger narrative is just the same in my neck of the woods as in her's. And like her, rather than just talking about the problem, I am engaged in helping to create change. So the work that I participated in up in Townsend, TN, with the Tanner Cultural Center is helping to kick off an African American driving tour of public history sites. I suspect that we'll continue to see a lot of activism out of the group of there (which has a long community tradition of that) and we'll see more of them in the tourism world.
This is the Tanner School (the original Rosenwald structure is still in there somewhere) as it looked when we were last out there in the Fall of 2008.

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