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Seeking the Salt of the Earth

Why, hello there.  It’s been awhile!  This summer I took a break from writing in order to build the first season of programming for my new events practice, terroir studio. 

I learned a lot about how to (and how not to) put on dinner parties, and I also experienced some changing thinking about the nature of community building and public space — but that’s a topic for another post.  Today, I want to introduce a series of posts I’ll be producing throughout the rest of the fall, which I’m calling “Seeking the Salt of the Earth.”

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m fascinated by the telling of collective origin stories.  Exhibitions, consumption patterns, historic preservation strategies, rituals and practices, and design aesthetics that deal with questions like: Who are we?  What parts of our pasts do we celebrate? How do we deal with the physical reminders, in our environment, of things we’d rather forget? What kind of past do we need in order to become the community we want to be?  And how do we pass these stories down to our children?

An especially powerful origin story — in America, at least — is the working class origin story.  Often woven together with immigration myths of families and communities, personal connection to a working class origin is understood as the key for personal, and collective, authenticity. I think part of this comes from the perception that the working class, whether rural or urban, somehow have a deeper connection to place and community.  They are of the earth.  They are also of their bodies, using their hands for work, as well as their problem solving minds.

In this series I’m going to explore a range of tools and strategies that individuals, communities, and companies use to evoke a sense of working class origins.  I’ll ask why they do so, and what the connection to the working class means.  If you have suggestions for funny, puzzling, or meaningful cases of “salt of the earth” ism, let me know!  I’d especially love to look at multimedia examples.

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