A book reading and signing will be offered by two NDSU faculty on Monday, May 9, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Stoker’s Basement at the Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees must be 21 or accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Joy Sather-Wagstaff, assistant professor of anthropology, wrote “Heritage That Hurts: Tourists in the Memoryscapes of September 11,” and David Silkenat, assistant professor of history and education, wrote “Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, & Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina." Both books were published in February.
In her book, Sather-Wagstaff discusses how memorial sites are continuously negotiated, constructed and reconstructed into culturally meaningful landscapes through various performative activities. These activities are not limited to formal commemorative acts but also include tourists’ vernacular activities and experiences both at memorial sites and post-travel. Her primary focus is on the former site of the World Trade Center in New York City. This site is compared to others including the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She demonstrates how tourists are critical to constructing memorial sites as broadly significant rather than diminishing their social importance and in doing so, challenges existing academic theories on what is frequently called “dark tourism.”
Silkenat argues that during the Civil War era, black and white North Carolinians were forced to fundamentally reinterpret the morality of suicide, divorce and debt as these experiences became pressing issues throughout the region and nation. The attitudes of North Carolinians differed from people outside the South in two respects. First, attitudes toward these cultural practices changed more abruptly and rapidly in the South than in the rest of America, and second, the practices were interpreted through a prism of race. Drawing upon a robust and diverse body of sources, including insane asylum records, divorce petitions, bankruptcy filings, diaries and personal correspondence, this innovative study describes a society turned upside down as a consequence of a devastating war.