How far to the nearest arsonist? Representing a national landscape in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This study explores the interpretive practices of the National Park Service (NPS) within the context of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Focusing on a period stretching from 1930 to 1960, I examine the agency's efforts to represent, to the visiting public, local cultural practices. Wanting to make local cultures familiar to the largest possible audience, the NPS framed the cultural landscape as simply one more instance of a frontier settlement. This is complicated by the fact the cultures placed under the scrutiny of NPS interpretation were produced by a population that was driven from the area encompassing GSMNP to make way for its establishment. I explore the material and representational consequences of the NPS's decision to apply the frontier story to the area, and how this relates to larger questions of American nationalism, and its production within the confines of state-sanctioned spaces. Ultimately, I argue that the sense of national identity carved in these spaces requires the material dispossession of actual communities, which are replaced by more abstract imagined communities, geared towards producing enjoyment for the visiting public. This study contributes to our theoretical understanding of cultural landscapes by illustrating their meaning is never locatable in material or empirical forms purely, but is produced though an array of discursive and ideological interactions that transcend a single space.
0337: American history