Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Memorials and monuments at military heritage sites track the ways American society constructs and then reconstructs its understandings of important events. They present enticing material culture for study by archaeologists seeking to analyze the layers of meaning and the social and chronological transformations in the heritage narratives at military sites. With the prominence of recent national discourses surrounding the heritage narratives presented by Civil War Confederate monuments, there is a paramount need for archaeologists to lend their expertise in material culture studies to these dialogues. I also believe it remains important to expand this critical examination of Civil War monuments to other wars. The use of monuments to support specific discourses about the past is not an aberration but an established, consistently used means of heritage discourse. Although elites use memorials to craft heritage narratives in support of their power, ethnic-based organizations have also used memorialization to engage and challenge oppressive national ideologies. This dissertation examines the monuments and signage constructed at five Revolutionary War sites within New York State: Oriskany Battlefield, Fort Stanwix National Monument, Saratoga Battlefield, Newtown Battlefield, and Old Fort Niagara.
My dissertation foregrounds the agency of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), Irish, and Polish in asserting their own narratives since thelate 19 th century. My analysis challenges portrayals of heritage as monolithic narratives defined exclusively by elite, white, Anglo-Saxons while suggesting that non-dominant ethnicities only engaged in the construction of heritage within the last few decades. My research demonstrates how heritage narratives are transformed by numerous stakeholders. This research is especially relevant with the current national discourse on the meaning, symbolism, and memory of monuments in public spaces.
I conclude that the Authorized Heritage Discourses presented at each site were more influenced by the descendants of those who fought at the site rather than whether the site was managed at the New York State or Federal level. At the same time, I observed a clear trend by ethnic organizations of Irish-Americans, Dutch-Americans, and Polish-Americans and by the various nations of theHaudenosaunee to engage with and sometimes challenge these Authorized Heritage Discourses at these sites.
Venables, Brant W., "Remembering the Revolution: Monuments and Commemorations of American Revolutionary War Sites in New York" (2018). Graduate Dissertations and Theses. 71.
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