Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Teaching culture: Experiences in a Croatian diaspora
by Johnson, Jill Ann, Ph.D., University of Washington, 2009, 324; 3394204
Abstract (Summary)

A simple kitchen table stands in a home in a small town in Anacortes, Washington in the late 1930s. Several women sit around it dressed in working clothes, their hands at rest on the table. They drink strong coffee and take a break from their work. They sing.

In the early 1950s, another kitchen table stands in the same small town. Some of the faces are the same, but there are new ones including a young mother and her three daughters. They along with their husband and father are newly arrived from the Croatian island of Korčula in Dalmatia off the Adriatic coast. All of the women at the kitchen table originated from this place.

As an adult, the oldest daughter returns to her family's home in the harbor town of Vela Luka on Korčula. She discovers a gap in her cultural experiences—music and dances never heard or seen in the Anacortes Croatian community. This cultural disjuncture motivates her to learn more. A folklorist from the town of Vela Luka is hired to teach them the dances of the region.

Ignited by their new knowledge they desire more, and lacking expertise they tap outsider specialists in Croatian music—non-Croatians—to teach them. Motivated to explore what was missing from their culture, to continue beyond the boundaries of their Dalmatian origins and to provide their children with a healthy, cultural experience, in 1975 members of this community founded the Vela Luka Croatian Dance Ensemble. Forming alliances with outsider specialists, they acquired knowledge and skills and built the group into a professional level performing company.

Utilizing interviews and three decades of participant observation, this work explores the group's process of learning about their culture and the tools they use to recreate a meaningful cultural expression in a new home. This exploration gazes through the lenses of the works and theories of other scholars writing about nationalism and identity, diaspora, acculturation and immigrant cultural expression, globalization, affinity groups, interactions between subcultures and supercultures and the important roles of alliances in the creation and maintenance of cultural expression.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ellingson, Ter
School: University of Washington
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-A 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Music, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Croatia, Culture, Diaspora, Ethnomusicology, Transnational
Publication Number: 3394204
ISBN: 978-1-109-60999-8
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