Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Dr. Raja Swamy

Committee Members

Dr. Tamar Shirinian, Dr. De Ann Pendry


Anthropologists have long engaged with archival materials in order to provide historically accurate information that might assist in the production of ethnographic projects. Archives are unique institutions where historical data can be found that contributes valuable information about particular groups of people; however, archives themselves are again and again being controlled by a higher power, particularly that of the State, and this act of ownership contributes to acts of omission that misconstrue historical narratives as well as descriptions of the people and places depicted within an archive. In this project, I engage with an archive located in a rural town in Appalachia in order to determine what information can be revealed about the history of individuals and communities living in said space. Materials found from within the archive are examined along and against the archival grain in order to develop an understanding of the ways in which historical narratives about people in rural Appalachia are presented and why they are presented as such. As a critical engagement with archival material, this project points out historical absences from the archive and critically examines what can be found from archival material when it is analyzed directly without other sources. The goal of this project is to contribute to various literatures that examine rural lifeways in Appalachia and urge anthropologists to follow in a critical pursuit of archival materials when developing a broader ethnographic project about groups of people, particularly those living in rural areas. As was found in this project, the Hamblen County Archive contains a several historical silences. When archival material is analyzed alone, it presents inaccurate descriptions about the people living in Morristown, Tennessee, and their associated histories. In addition, I argue that anthropologists and community should engage in the processes of building archives that exist as entities separated from the state apparatus, as state power can have impact on the process of knowledge production that takes place within the walls of an archive. Community-based archives are already being developed throughout Appalachia and these are sites where more holistic knowledges can be preserved and presented to audiences of researchers and the general public, as well as future generations of people who seek information about the past.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."