Date of Graduation

5-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Adam Rex Pope

Committee Member

Kirstin Erickson

Second Committee Member

Vox Jo Hsu

Keywords

Community Listening, Cultural Studies, Public Memory, Reconciliation

Abstract

This dissertation argues for a storied approach to listening from the perspective of a white Southern woman. To do this, I carefully followed the work of two community groups. One, the Washington County Community Remembrance Project, is working to install a marker venerating Aaron, Anthony, and Randall, three enslaved people who were lynched in our area in 1856. The other, the James H. Berry United Daughters of the Confederacy, is responsible for installing a Confederate statue on the Bentonville Square in 1908 that was removed in 2020. As illustrated by the use of archival research and embedded participation in interracial community spaces, this project argues that the storied approach taken by the Washington County Community Remembrance Project ultimately renders it more effective than the assumptive work of the James H. Berry United Daughters of the Confederacy.

By critically examining my own positionality in these two groups, I argue that a storied approach to listening as well as examining past and present influences on our community spaces is necessary. The motivations of both groups argue for storied, ephemeral retroactivism. Understanding the locations of both markers establish credibility and a Black sense of space in our pervasively white community. Listening to the words surrounding these projects establishes a minimization of racism as well as a Black sense of language critical to the work. A focus on the people of both groups asserts the importance of ancestorship and inspiration in an understanding of my own role in the community. Acknowledging the occasions of both groups’ unveiling (and/or removal) argues for the need for white confrontation as well as Black agency in reconciliation efforts moving forward. Critical to these conversations is the ability to hear my own positionality and privilege not just in these community spaces, but in administrative, pedagogical, and personal encounters in the present and beyond.

Available for download on Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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