My research analyzes the ways in which Americans have attached particular narratives to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 that allow them to make meaning of contemporary events, comment on cultural values and ideas of national progress, and work through social anxieties by engaging with a historical crisis. I analyze the ways in which gender and its intersections with race have been represented in Salem witchcraft tourism from the nineteenth century to the present. I have found that witchcraft tourist sites use discourses of victims and victimization to delimit norms of gendered behavior, particularly as it intersects with race and class. Representations of these norms reflect an ambivalence and unease about threats to, and the threats of, white patriarchy. In turn, touristic narratives – as represented in travel guides, museums, and walking tours – variously reify or challenge assumptions about authority, power, religion, and codes of gendered, raced, and classed “decency” at particular historical moments, as well as the value Americans place on those at the axes of these identities.
Public History, Tourism, Gender and Sexuality, Early Modern Atlantic World
Molly McGarry (chair), Catherine Gudis, Alexander Haskell