This talk will discuss the transformations of what I call "the genealogical interest" in American culture since the colonial period. Genealogy is today an extraordinarily popular and democratic pastime in the United States. Yet, historians take it seldom seriously. I want to argue instead that the cultural history of genealogy offers significant insights on larger issues of democracy, identity, and social justice in American history. I will address the transformation of genealogy from an activity essentially rooted in Republicanism during the antebellum period into an aristocratic, highly racialized and exclusive practice of ancestors’ worshipin the 1870-1950 period, to the current democratic, multicultural passion for one’s family tree. I will therefore analyze the cultural, intellectual, and political basis of the search and the struggle for a personal past.
09.05.2012 | 18:15
Freie Universität Berlin, Seminarzentrum Raum L 115, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin