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Authenticity on the Ground: Engaging the Past in a California Ghost Town

Authenticity on the Ground: Engaging the Past in a California Ghost Town This qualitative study explores how the concept of authenticity is constructed, experienced and employed by visitors and staff in the provocative landscape of the ghost town of Bodie, California. Bodie State Historic Park, once a booming gold-mining town, now greets some two hundred thousand tourists annually and is widely applauded for its authenticity. In this paper, I explore the meaning of this term in its ghost-town context: while boom-town Bodie was a bustling commercial center, ghost-town Bodie appears abandoned and devoid of commercial activity. Thus, authenticity in a ghost town is not tied to the accuracy with which it represents its past. Yet a version of Bodie's past is what both visitors and staff experience: they employ Bodie's authenticity to engage with the mythic West, a romanticized version of the Anglo-American past that upholds dominant contemporary Anglo-American values. Bodie's false-fronted facades and ramshackle miners' cabins call forth these images, familiar to visitors from movie Westerns. Since ghost towns have few or no residents, it is largely through the landscape and the artifacts that are part of that landscape that these mythic images are experienced. Thus, an experience of authenticity is not the end result of a visit to Bodie; rather, authenticity is a vehicle through which both visitors and staff engage with powerful notions about American virtues. In this paper, I explore how the notion of authenticity is triggered by landscape, and examine the narratives about the past that the concept of authenticity enables. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Annals of the Association of American Geographers Taylor & Francis

Authenticity on the Ground: Engaging the Past in a California Ghost Town

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References (65)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN
0004-5608
eISSN
1467-8306
DOI
10.1111/0004-5608.00164
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This qualitative study explores how the concept of authenticity is constructed, experienced and employed by visitors and staff in the provocative landscape of the ghost town of Bodie, California. Bodie State Historic Park, once a booming gold-mining town, now greets some two hundred thousand tourists annually and is widely applauded for its authenticity. In this paper, I explore the meaning of this term in its ghost-town context: while boom-town Bodie was a bustling commercial center, ghost-town Bodie appears abandoned and devoid of commercial activity. Thus, authenticity in a ghost town is not tied to the accuracy with which it represents its past. Yet a version of Bodie's past is what both visitors and staff experience: they employ Bodie's authenticity to engage with the mythic West, a romanticized version of the Anglo-American past that upholds dominant contemporary Anglo-American values. Bodie's false-fronted facades and ramshackle miners' cabins call forth these images, familiar to visitors from movie Westerns. Since ghost towns have few or no residents, it is largely through the landscape and the artifacts that are part of that landscape that these mythic images are experienced. Thus, an experience of authenticity is not the end result of a visit to Bodie; rather, authenticity is a vehicle through which both visitors and staff engage with powerful notions about American virtues. In this paper, I explore how the notion of authenticity is triggered by landscape, and examine the narratives about the past that the concept of authenticity enables.

Journal

Annals of the Association of American GeographersTaylor & Francis

Published: Dec 1, 1999

Keywords: Authenticity; landscape; mythic West; ghost town

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