This study deals with the Swedish cultural heritage in the United States and aims to examine how and why individuals living in the U.S. select and affirm certain concepts and phenomena as particularly Swedish. The focus is on Lindsborg, Kansas, a town of some 3,000 inhabitants who identify themselves as Swedish Americans, Swedes, and non-Swedes, and on how they organize, prepare and enact parades in which they display notions of Swedishness to audiences of 10,000 visitors or more. These parades are enacted during the Svensk Hyllningsfest, an event which townspeople have arranged biennially since 1941 in honor of the Swedish settlers of Lindsborg and their descendants. The study is based on four periods of fieldwork, of which one (1997-1998) follows the planning, organization and the final enactment of the Hyllningsfest. The ethnographic fieldwork is discussed, especially ethical issues and the processes of converting Weld experiences into written texts. In addition, the study is based on newspaper reports and festival publicity material, some of which dates back to the 1910s. Thus the contemporary focus is given historical depth. Based on theories of events, performances, heritage making, and public memory, and touching upon the development of the heritage industry and small town economics, the study draws on the premise that repeated performances allow participants to negotiate, motivate and articulate issues that are important to them. In particular, the analyses highlight the relationship between heritage, commercialization and dedication, between heritage as ceremony and heritage as humor, and between heritage as choice and heritage as lineage. Today, Lindsborg prides itself on its voluntary heritage making, a perception that is part of the town leadership's strategy. The analyses show how organizers and other inhabitants communicate different visions of the town heritage through the Svensk Hyllningsfest Parade. While the organizers praise recognized stock images of "Swedishness," participants are more likely to express individual visions of things Swedish. By enacting parades that occur before the official event parade, some groups challenge the official parade, thereby adding complexity to the simplified image of Swedishness that the official organizers advocate. The contest between organizers and participants is a battle over the concept of heritage, and over the appropriateness of the professional heritage industry, including tourism and commercial event makers. Through the parade, Lindsborgians express deep values and existential issues at the same time as they focus on ideals linked to ethnic hierarchy and class, contesting simplified notions of heritage. The study illustrates how Sweden and Swedish America have developed in separate cultural directions. But it also demonstrates that the two are now moving closer together through collaboration in heritage tourism. While Lindsborg looks toward Sweden to renew its expressions of Swedishness, community leaders in Sweden show interest in Lindsborg's competence in managing cultural performance. This collaboration involves selected rural communities in Sweden with which Lindsborgians share values, friendships and commitments.
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2003. , 246 p.
Diss. Stockholm : Univ., 2003