Places in the world a person could walk: Auto-ethnobiographical explorations of family, stories, home and place
Syring, David Michael
Marcus, George E.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation explores, ethnographically, what the terms "family," "home," and "place" mean for individuals in a specific place, the Texas Hill Country. Contemporary mobility makes the meanings of these terms complex and crucial. While most academic research dismisses nostalgia, I argue that it continues to have powerful familial, regional, national, and even transnational attraction. Such nostalgia suggests a longing for connectedness to the stories and memories embedded in places. It relies especially on rural, or marginalized areas to convey some feeling of richness and fullness, what theorists identify as an "aura of authenticity," for modern urban culture. Through storytelling I evoke local practices that create a sense of place. I also show how rural places like the Texas Hill Country become identified as places of tradition and rootedness to the earth where mobile, urban Americans eagerly seek connection by purchasing antiques and sacred objects. This dissertation lays intellectual and emotional groundwork by orienting the reader to the place and people of the Texas Hill Country, then continues with several narratives focused on a single site to explore how "place" can become a container for memory and story. Subsequent sections include a more essayistic grappling with family, home, and place; a life history of an 80-year old native of Blanco County, Texas; and an examination of the problematics of the social construction of Fredericksburg, Texas, as a "home" and place of history. While I partially focus on narratives of history and how they are constructed, I also tell stories about people of my own times--about how we live in cities created either as placeless, ahistorical malls, or in towns self-consciously constructed as tourist sites; what we do with a commodified history; what life is like in a problematic world of questions regarding our places.
American studies; Cultural anthropology; Anthropology