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“Past Expressions of Modern Cultures: Symbolic Interactions of Group Identity and Northern Landscapes” Nicole A. Raslich

December 14, 2017 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Please join us for the dissertation proposal defense of “Past Expressions of Modern Cultures: Symbolic Interactions of Group Identity and Northern Landscapes” by Nicole A. Raslich.


By understanding that the concept of landscape is the basis of who fisher/hunter/gatherers are, we can begin to broaden our knowledge of these societies, their perceptions of space, and their land use patterns. This research examines the ways in which intra-group identity among people, traditionally labeled as fisher/hunter/gatherers, is expressed through ritual activities embedded in places on the landscape. Network Theory and Cultural Transmission Theory offer an explanatory framework for these associations and patterns by illustrating the ways in which cultural transmission occurs that should allow us to examine intra-group identity through ritual.
The boreal forest region of eastern North America demarcates the spatial parameters of this research by using ecotones as pre-contact ethnic boundaries instead of archaeological and ethnohistorical boundaries. Using the boreal forest landscape to situate my case study group, the Ojibwa, I ask the questions, in what ways do the various groups within the Ojibwa enculturate their landscape? Could this enculturation leave a visible archaeological signature? Various intra-group identities, as well as the larger Ojibwa identity, are expressed through many avenues of ritual such as; the treatment of animal remains; landscape markings such as petroforms, pictographs and petroglyphs; ethnographic homologues, and indigenous toponymy.

Utilizing a mixed methods approach, this dissertation uses content analysis of the ethnographic and ethnohistoric record, oral traditions and ethnoarchaeology of northern fisher/hunter/gatherer people’s land-use patterns. The content analysis will be used to generate expectations of the nature and character of ritual remains, the locations these rituals are performed on the landscape and what these ritual remains can tell us about intra-group membership and inclusion. These variables will then be analyzed using multivariate techniques (e.g. cluster analysis and correspondence analysis) to aid in seeing the associations of the intra-group identities. Ojibwa toponomy and self-identified group names and movement patterns will be situated upon a map of the region to create a visualization of landscape enculturation.
The intersection of cultural identity and landscape displayed here contributes to the ongoing discussion of land use patterns in archaeology by offering a model for ritual and sacred land use.


C103 McDonel Hall

Michigan State University

East Lansing,

United States

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Department of Anthropology