Date of Award

8-2006

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Shannon E. Martin

Second Committee Member

Sandra Berkowitz

Third Committee Member

Eric E. Peterson

Abstract

Communities of diverse peoples are often fraught with tension and conflict. Much of this conflict stems from oppositional identities held by individuals in the communities. For the lobster fishing island of Deer Isle, Maine, community conflict often fractures as the following identities: local vs. non-local, resident vs. tourist, and native vs. "from away." These identities are socially created through interaction and discourse -the way we talk about ourselves and others. These discursive identities are dynamic and are often created or modified during times of change or upheaval. This study examines the discourses surrounding the building of the Deer Isle- Sedgwick bridge in 1939, a formative moment in Deer Isle's history, to explore the discursive construction of identity and trace the repercussion(s) of this construction to the present. This study employs critical discourse analysis, a method that identifies the major discourses -such as romantic discourses or the discourse of progress -and examines how they are used by residents and nonresidents of Deer Isle during this profound moment in the island's history. The analysis included a close reading of newspaper accounts from 1926 to 1939, documents relating to the construction of the bridge found at the Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society, commemorative coverage in 1989, and analysis of two interviews conducted by the researcher in November of 2005. The findings suggest that the local community of Deer Isle in the 1930s deliberately created a community identity that commodified the island. In order to procure government funding during the Great Depression, island residents constructed the island as an undiscovered tourist haven. This construction, created by island residents to gamer hds, was later rejected as lobster fishing became more prevalent as an economic force on the island. Most contemporary residents find tourism antithetical to the true nature of the island community, despite the community's self-construction of such in the 1930s. This continues to impact how the island community views itself and those who visit or spend their summers on the island. Through the examination of discursive identities and how they shift over time, scholars can more fully understand sources of conflict among diverse groups. This understanding can then be used to address contemporary conflicts, which are often difficult to decipher without an examination of the history and context of the social identities of those involved. Critical discourse analysis and the study of the historical construction of identities can give the field of communication a new tool for exploring the repercussions of discursive identity construction.

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