Semester of Graduation

Summer 2023


Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This thesis examines the relationship between social memory and social identity development among groups who share contested interpretations of their shared social memory. With social memories being a collaborative process that requires consensus and compromise, there arises conflict when groups are divided in deciding on what event of their shared history is relevant to remember - for it is these memories that influence and shape how a group identifies itself.

For Black Americans, this contention arises in the conversations surrounding the difficult and traumatic histories of their enslaved ancestors by the ancestors of their white counterparts. This is further complicated when there is a lack of attachment to these stories by non-Black Americans, who then desire to disregard these stories in favor of “moving on” and supporting a social identity without this trauma.

Through participant observation, close reading of literature, informal interviews of participants at sites of memory (museums, tours, and theatrical performances), the inability of avoiding the past as it influences the present is demonstrated. The information retained through memory had varied significance depending on the querent. Furthermore, the influence of participant agency and curator mediation on material interpretation was found to have a great impact on the significance value of the information shared.



Committee Chair

Sarah Franzen