Memory, Risk, and Regional Identity in Oklahoma

Authors: Ashley Allen*, Ohio Wesleyan University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Historical Geography, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: Cultural Geography, Historical Geography, Risk, Regional Identity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Wilson A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tornadoes are often seen as a way of life in Oklahoma, with stories of deadly storms originating before statehood. Despite the understanding that these traumatic events routinely occur, Oklahomans often embrace the risk of tornadoes as a part of their regional identity. In this paper, I assert that shared memories of historic tornadoes are impactful to Oklahomans’ regional identity as it relates to residents’ relationships with risk. Multiple qualitative methods, including interview, archival research, and photograph analysis were used in order to identify the importance of this relationship to Oklahomans as a social group. Much importance is also placed on connecting the present to the past, and many Oklahomans have adopted tornadoes as a symbol of strength. While memories of these tornadic events do not negate the risks of living in a potentially dangerous environment, they also do not imply that risks should be avoided. Rather, facing these risks is seen as a practice in endurance that many Oklahomans believe they were built to face.

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