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A Genesis Story for the USA or the Beginning of the End: The Work of Mobilising the Mayflower Narrative in its 400th Commemorative Year.

MULCAHEY, AMELIA,LUCY (2021) A Genesis Story for the USA or the Beginning of the End: The Work of Mobilising the Mayflower Narrative in its 400th Commemorative Year. Masters thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Mulcahey 000852119) - Accepted Version


This thesis is an international study of the negotiation and mobilisation of the Mayflower historical narrative in its 400th year. While critical heritage discourse has called for greater attention to the affective relationships of communities with their heritage, the curator is often presented as detached and magisterial. Furthermore, this curator is principally assumed to be non-Indigenous. My research complicates established heritage discourse through an investigation of Indigenous informants and non-academic community members as audiences and producers of historical narratives. Exposing the overlooked diversity of roles and identities of those that interpret history, this thesis uses semi-structured interviews with: public historians, event organisers, local government representatives, critics of the commemorations, student groups and Mayflower descendants. My research applies a decolonised methodology and is produced in collaboration with Native American advisors. Informants are from the UK, USA and the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag, Shinnecock, Dakota and Cherokee Nations.

This thesis contends that historical interpretation is hard, emotional and even traumatic work. It argues that colonial misrepresentations and anti-Indigenous racism shape the interpretive work of Native American informants and complicate claims that the Mayflower commemorations are a strong platform for Indigenous cultural survivance. The 2020 commemorations, like the proceeding celebratory anniversaries, are shown to drive reinterpretations of the Mayflower narrative to meet changed audience expectations, notions of history and narratives of nationhood. The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and Covid-19 pandemic are shown to provoke a significant change in these expectations. My research reveals that the Mayflower narrative is multivalent; however, by sensitively examining the processes by which historical interpretations are produced, my ethnography reveals how a dominant Pilgrim Mayflower narrative is preserved. This study contributes a timely insight for decolonising interventions in upcoming commemorations, by uncovering the pressures that shaped a significant contemporary moment of UK-Indigenous collaboration.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:Decolonisation; Indigenous Studies; Cultural Survivance; Commemoration; Mayflower
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2021 15:39

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