Monumental Discourse: the narratives on display at Stone Mountain Park, Georgia

Authors: Sean Thomas*, Oklahoma State University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: content analysis, geography of memory, collective identity, Southern identity, racism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Galerie 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

While the desire to memorialize the past is quite common, the motivations behind many memorials are not necessarily self-evident. Often – whether intentional or not – the memorialization of the past is a platform for the creation of collective identities, and frequently these arise out of conflicting identities and sometimes even racism. Stone Mountain Park (SMP) in Georgia – containing the world’s largest relief carving as well as three museums dedicated to the pre-Civil War South, the carving, and the geology of the area – is one such memorial. In this paper, I examine current narratives being presented by the park, most notably at the Plantation Museum to understand the ways in which the park is being represented and what contribution these representations make to southern identities. To do this, I collected data from the museums by using non-flash photography and video to record the entire contents of each museum during self-guided tours. I then set about coding the data for content analysis. The findings show that the narratives currently being presented at SMP do in fact act as a platform for the creation of a white hegemonic Southern identity by preserving the racial order established during the pre-Civil War South and in many ways continues to this day.

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