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date: 20 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The study of regions and borders in American folklore and folklife is essentially about the cultural significance of place and land. It has been of political interest more widely because of the implication of the way that national feeling developed after the establishment of a New Republic in the nineteenth century despite sectional division born out of cultural differences. It has been of folkloristic significance because of region as an important marker of cultural identity, in some places more than others. Along both these lines, folklorists have asked about the relative stability of regional cultures in the United States and the use of regional folklore as an expression of social belonging in relation to others, including race, ethnicity, occupation, family, and religion. Objective and subjective approaches to investigating these issues are presented. For the former, historical-geographical surveys of folk items that demonstrate diffusion and hybridization are covered, and for the latter, rhetorical criticism of narrative and visual expressions and frame or situational analysis of cultural scenes are discussed. The essay introduces the concept of regional “homelands” in a mobile society such as the United States—social constructions that are often imagined in folklife rather than in the reality of a cultural landscape. Addressing the view that place and region carry less cultural meaning with the advent of the digital era of the twenty-first century, the essay closes with research trajectories for assessing the continued need for “sense of place” in a modern context of heightened mobility, globalization, and digital communication.

Keywords: borderlands, cultural landscape, digital culture, diffusion, folklife, folklore, homeland, nationalism, region, rhetoric

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