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Creating New Orleans: race, religion, rhetoric, and the Louisiana Purchase

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Though some scholars have written about place and history, few have pursued the use of place theory in length in relation to the connections between race, religion, and national identity.

Though some scholars have written about place and history, few have pursued the use of place theory in length in relation to the connections between race, religion, and national identity. Using the writings in the United States and Louisiana in the years surrounding the Louisiana Purchase, I explore place-making and othering processes. U.S. leaders influenced by the Second Great Awakening viewed New Orleans as un-American in its religion and seemingly ambiguous race relations. New Orleanian Catholics viewed the U.S. as an aggressively Protestant place that threatened the stability of the Catholic Church in the Louisiana Territory. Both Americans and New Orleanians constructed the place identities of the other in relation to events in Europe and the Caribbean, demonstrating that places are constructed in relation to one another. In order to elucidate these dynamics, I draw on place theory, literary analysis, and historical anthropology in analyzing the letters of W.C.C. Claiborne, the first U.S. governor of the Louisiana Territory, in conjunction with sermons of prominent Protestant ministers Samuel Hopkins and Jedidiah Morse, a letter written by Ursuline nun Sister Marie Therese de St. Xavior Farjon to Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington Cable's Reconstruction era novel The Grandissimes. All of these parties used the notion of place to create social fact that was bound up with debates about race and anti-Catholic sentiments. Furthermore, their treatments of place demonstrate concerns for creating, or resisting absorption by, a New Republic that was white and Protestant. Place theory proves useful in clarifying how Americans and New Orleanians viewed the Louisiana Purchase as well as the legacy of those ideas. It demonstrates the ways in which the U.S. defined itself in contradistinction to religious others. Limitations arise, however, depending on the types of sources historians use. While official government letters reveal much when put into the context of the trends in American religion at the turn of the nineteenth century, they are not as clearly illuminating as journals and novels. In these genres, authors provide richer detail from which historians can try to reconstruct senses of place.

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  • 2011

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Walking to Magdalena: place and person in Tohono O'odham songs, sticks, and stories

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This dissertation examines songs, sticks, and stories pertaining to Tohono O'odham pilgrimages to Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico, the home of their patron saint, Saint Francis. In the sense that Tohono O'odham

This dissertation examines songs, sticks, and stories pertaining to Tohono O'odham pilgrimages to Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico, the home of their patron saint, Saint Francis. In the sense that Tohono O'odham travel to Magdalena in order to sustain their vital and long-standing relationship with their saint, these journeys may be understood as a Christian pilgrimages. However, insofar as one understands this indigenous practice as a Christian pilgrimage, it must also be noted that Tohono O'odham have made Christianity their own. The findings show that Tohono O'odham have embedded, or emplaced, Christianity within their ancestral landscapes, and that they have done so in a variety of ways through songs, staffs, and stories. This work emphasizes connections between O'odham processes of producing places and persons. Songs associated with the journey to Magdalena, which contain both geographical and historical knowledge, foreground the significance of place and the movements of various persons at the places mentioned within them. The staffs of O'odham walkers, like other sticks, similarly contain both geographical and historical knowledge, evoking memories of past journeys in the present and the presence of Magdalena. Staffs are also spoken of and treated as persons, or at least as an extension of O'odham walkers. O'odham stories of good and bad walkers illustrate contested O'odham ideologies of socially sanctioned movements. Finally, this dissertation concludes by demonstrating some of the ways in which O'odham senses of their own history diverge from academic models of Tohono O'odham history and the history of Christianity in the Americas.

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  • 2013