Practicing Place Report
This project, Practicing Place, was aimed to exploring Appalachian rituals, especially related to place, so that Sid Brown could incorporate a section on Appalachian rituals into her course on place and ritual. The course is designed to invite students to explore what rituals do in relation to space and relationships – how people map out their territory through ritual and what we can understand of those maps.
Professor Brown’s community partner Dr. Jerry Smith, also a professor of religious studies, has taught courses in Appalachian Religion, Southern Religion, and Rural Religion; he took her on five filmstrips in the area of the University of the South, each one geared to reveal aspects of Appalachian religion and ritual.
The primary result of the project this last summer is work on a module for Professor Brown’s class that allows students to practice ethnographic work and ritual interpretation as they partner with local community members and focus on two Appalachian rituals: 1) Decoration Day (a communal cleaning and decorating of cemeteries) and 2) all day singing, both of which feature “dinner on the ground.” This module, drawing as it does on the tools of anthropology as well as religious studies, is interdisciplinary; and because students will collaborate with locals residents as they participate in and seek to understand these rituals, it will encourage collaboration. Our place here, in Appalachia, thus “drives an agenda of teaching, research, and community engaged learning.”