"To Milk the Yankee Tourists": Mid-20Th-Century Heritage Practice and the Social Construction of Whiteness in the American South
Master of Arts (M.A.)
This paper considers the appropriation of Indigenous heritage in northwest Georgia during the mid-20th century. Through this case study of the first state-funded historic preservation project in the state at Etowah Indian Mounds, I apply a recent theorizing on the nature of whiteness, settler colonialism, and the role of heritage in cementing racialized structures of colonial rule. I outline the long history of Indigenous dispossession and settler appropriation in the American South to show how the origins of Indigenous heritage tourism built on an established settler colonial apparatus that deployed race to service commercial and economic development schemes. in this vein, my study highlights state-funded infrastructural development, newspaper reports, commercial interests, and community practice as key nodes in an integrated system facilitating appropriation and solidifying white control over space and place. to tackle this complex interdependence, I formulate a conception of heritage practice drawn from Hargrove's (2009) model of whiteness as habituated cultural practice, and tie this discussion into heritage studies emphasizing the transformation of historic landscapes into white public space. I then contextualize heritage building at Etowah within an evolving tourism economy and New South ideology that positioned white supremacy in relation to modernity, and demonstrate how GHC practitioners utilized archaeology and architecture to reinforce this ideological framework at Etowah Mounds. Tracking trends in the press coverage of ongoing preservation activities at Etowah Mounds, my study charts the gradual production of heritage values tied not to commercial interests but to the site's perceived historical and archaeological significance as Georgia's flagship preservation project. I argue that the repositioning of this site as national patrimony served to legitimate the appropriation and continued possession of Indigenous land, resources, and material culture by establishing ancestral connections between white communities and the region's pre-contact inhabitants.
© The Author
Bittner, Jessica, ""To Milk the Yankee Tourists": Mid-20Th-Century Heritage Practice and the Social Construction of Whiteness in the American South" (2018). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1550153833.