Material Culture is printed two times a year for members of PAS:APAL. You may download a PDF of the table of contents of the current issue here.

Two special issues of Material Culture are in the works. See our Call for Papers to find out more; perhaps one of the topics is apropos to your field of study. If so, do consider offering a submission.

Fall 2014 Material Culture includes:

The Enduring Finnish Sauna in Hamlin County, South Dakota

Linnea C. Sando
Earth Sciences Geography, Montana State University

Abstract: The sauna is a dominant trait of Finnish culture. When Finnish immigrants settled in the United States and Canada, they continued their tradition of taking saunas. Researchers have documented Finnish settlement, including the presence and significance of saunas, in the Cutover Region, the Pacific Northwest, and the prairies of Saskatchewan.

Finns have shaped the landscape and life in Hamlin County, South Dakota in similar ways. With a present-day concentrated population of Finnish-Americans still residing in Hamlin County, saunas continue to be built and enjoyed, showing continuity in the cultural practice of taking saunas. This paper discusses the Finnish sauna in eastern South Dakota as a significant element of material culture in the landscape of the past and present on rural farmsteads in Lake Norden, one of the region’s small towns. In addition to leaving a visible imprint on the landscape, the practices associated with the sauna have shaped traditions for not only Finns, but other residents of the region as well. With the highest per capita of individuals reporting Finnish ancestry in South Dakota, Hamlin County continues to be shaped by the historic tradition of the Finnish sauna.

Material Ecology and the Culture of Resort Re-Development on Cozumel

Jeffrey Widener
University Libraries, University of Oklahoma

Abstract: In 2011, President Felipe Calderón’s (2006-2012) administration led an initiative to restore Mexico’s tourism industry by encouraging new developments, investments, and revitalization — particularly in well-known resort areas like Cancún, Cozumel, and the Riviera Maya, attempting to overcome the decline over the past decade, of the country’s third largest industry — tourism. These “improvements,” however, may contribute over time to the degradation of the natural and cultural heritage that attracts visitors, even though laws have been put in place to protect those very artifacts. This study explores the impress of the tourism industry on Cozumel, using geographer Richard Butler’s effective Tourism Area Life Cycle model as an analytical framework to understand how the industry changes over time. Also, it builds on geographer Jeffrey Smith’s work, which outlined three generations of resort evolutions in Mexico, by exploring the development and re-development of Cozumel — a first generation resort. Specifically, this study considers some of the myriad elements of material culture that relate to tourism to understand how Cozumel, as a tourist destination, has changed over time.

Reflective Essay: The Price of Freedom, the Cost of War: A Walking Tour

Kerry Whigham
Department of Performance Studies, New York University

Abstract: In 2004, the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. opened its newest exhibit in the permanent collection. The Price of Freedom: Americans at War takes visitors on a 250 year journey through the history of warfare in the United States from the French and Indian Wars of colonial America to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Through the form of a guided walking tour of the exhibition, this essay posits some alternate ways of looking at this display of American history through the lens of warfare. Specifically, this essay examines the material objects present in the curation of the exhibit and analyzes the disparities in the manner in which each individual war is portrayed. Also analyzed is the positioning of the government and American citizens within each war and the near total disappearance of death from the exhibit. This essay ends by articulating an alternative — and potentially utopic — method for reclaiming the exhibition towards envisioning a less bellicose future.

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