The Acadian Memorial As Civic Laboratory: Whiteness, History, and Governmentality in a Louisiana Commemorative Site

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Marc David


In museum and race studies, scholars disagree on how to conceive of the subject: is it an identity defined by enduring interests that authors museal representations, or is it a self in process that sites seek to form and re-orient? I enter this debate by investigating displays in an Acadian commemorative site in Louisiana and the civic aims that motivated its staff, collaborators, and funders. Through analysis of ethnographic material, participants’ goals and exhibit strategies emerge as targeting a new historical awareness—and a more “well-tempered” self—that everyday life did not generate. The article concludes that historical sites are best seen as a kind of laboratory—linked to diverse (rather than singular) political projects—for enabling novel behaviors, and that research on whiteness should be more sensitive to the governmental dimensions of how raced and classed subjects are formed.


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Marc David, University of Oklahoma

Lecturer, Expository Writing Program