Attitudes Toward Antiquities: Rhetorical Enchantments, Preservation Advocacy, and the American Southwest Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Burgchardt, Lucy
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • My dissertation evaluates Anglo-American preservation advocacy on behalf of ancient indigenous places in the Southwestern United States, such as Mesa Verde, in southern Colorado, and Chaco Canyon, in northern New Mexico. My dissertation focuses on the rhetorical works of white adventurers, archaeologists, and advocates who were active in the American Southwest between the 1870s and the 1930s. It examines legislation that such social actors advanced during roughly the same historical period, and it also assesses four recent examples of preservation policy affecting Southwestern antiquities. Throughout this dissertation, I claim that the history and legacy of Anglo-American preservation advocacy on behalf of Southwestern antiquities demonstrate the communication patterns of rhetorical enchantment. I define rhetorical enchantment as an appeal to a cultural myth, often indicated or enhanced by the presence of poetic language. I develop the theory of rhetorical enchantment in relation to dramatism, finding evidence of the technological psychosis, frames of acceptance and rejection, and god terms alongside the myths that rhetors in my study expressed poetically. The main myths that rhetors in my dissertation prevailed upon were myths of modernity such as scientific rationality, the theory of cultural evolution, primitivism, and white superiority. These appeared alongside more literary myths, in which rhetors painted the American Southwest as a magical landscape, while they depicted the ancient structures that they found there as New World ruins. While these poetic myths often articulated to the myths of modernity that I critique throughout this dissertation, they undermined rhetors’ pretensions to scientific objectivity. Although scientific authority always has characterized Anglo-American engagement with ancient indigenous places in the Southwestern United States, this rhetorical history demonstrates that Anglo-American researchers, advocates, and policymakers always have exhibited a poetic attitude towards Southwestern antiquities. Unfortunately, these poetics typically translated into a fetishistic demeanor towards American Indian social actors, as well. Together, these rhetorical enchantments have naturalized Anglo-American involvement in the care of ancient indigenous places. Anthropological authority continues to dominate the federal management of indigenous heritage places. My dissertation historicizes and challenges this status quo, and the language that helped to constitute it.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Dempsey, Sarah
  • Thomas, Neal
  • McGill, Alicia
  • Balthrop, Bill
  • Blair, Carole
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

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