American Studies ETDs


Tita Berger

Publication Date



"Place for me is the locus of desire," writes Lucy Lippard in the opening to Lure of the Local (1997). This research project is about place. Two distinct sets of scholarship on place emerged in the 1970s and the 1990s. A third wave of place scholarship is evident today. Coming initially from geography and anthropology, the study of place is now ubiquitous across fields in history, cultural studies, architecture, planning, health sciences, art and other disciplines. Despite the sustained interest in the study of place, one of the hallmarks of place is the ranging and contested contours of what place means. Place is defined, for the purposes of this study, as a describable location characterized by a shifting confluence of historical, material, political, cultural, economic, built, sensed and imagined qualities. There are three distinct goals in this research project. First, this research project seeks to explore how place has been theorized, imagined, and understood. Second, this research project is an inquiry into how place can be studied. To these ends, I name, define, and refine a method I call place ethnography. Place ethnography is a methodological framework that blends ethnographic and historic research with a range of disciplinary techniques in order to study place. I develop several concepts in this project. These include the idea of a place imaginary, defined as a dominant place perception, the concept of an historical vacancy, the perception of an emptiness in the historical fabric and settlement of a place or region, a particular kind of place imaginary and topofabulas, a concept that describes a historically untenable place narratives that are accepted as historical truth and are place defining. The third goal of this research project is to apply place ethnographic methods to a specific place. To these ends, this research project recounts a place ethnographic study of a small town named Truth or Consequences, New Mexico undertaken from July 2012- August 2014.




place, place ethnography, place imaginary, place character, place identity, reclamation, historical vacancy, historic preservation, preservation place making

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Advisor

Meléndez, A. Gabriel

First Committee Member (Chair)

Wilson, Christopher Montgomery

Second Committee Member

Gandert, Miguel

Third Committee Member

Trujillo, Michael