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Title: Community, heritage, identity :constructing, performing and consuming Welsh identities in the US
Authors: Chapman, Ellen
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis examines relationships between community, heritage and identity in a diasporic context, exploring how national identities are imagined, expressed and sustained outside the nation. It is based on case studies of four Welsh American community heritage sites in the US, which involved detailed surveys with visitors to the sites, interviews with curators and managers, and in-depth analyses of their collections, exhibitions and events. The thesis starts from the assertion that heritage is a cultural and social communicative process (Dicks 2000a, 2000b; Smith 2006). It investigates how and why self-identifying Welsh Americans use community heritage sites to construct, perform and consume a range of personal and collective identities. Narratives of Welsh identities expressed by visitors are analysed using theories of symbolic ethnicity (Gans 1979) and elective belonging (Savage, Bagnall and Longhurst 2005). It is argued that the construction, performance and consumption of Welsh identities in the US are sustained by social groups and networks. The case study sites are further maintained to belong to a transnational heritage network incorporating a variety of community, academic and professional stakeholders from Wales and the global Welsh diasporic community. This challenges the division found in much museological theory between community initiatives in the "official" and "unofficial" heritage sectors. This thesis suggests that community heritage initiatives in both sectors are influenced by a mixture of "bottom-up" community and "top-down" professional interests and agendas. Acknowledging the inter-relationships between these sectors prompts a re-examination of processes of production and consumption. Rather than a linear continuum of performer/audience (Abercrombie and Longhurst 1998) or self/other (Dicks 2003), this thesis argues that processes of production and consumption are more usefully conceptualised as a network. It develops an audience network model as a means through which to create a better understanding of the variety of different ways in which individuals can engage with heritage narratives.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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