The casino and the museum: imagining the Mashantucket Pequot tribal nation in representational space



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This dissertation investigates the articulation of cultural identity in two specific spaces of representation in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The Mashantucket Pequots, a federally recognized Indian tribal nation, own and operate Foxwoods, the largest and most profitable casino in the Western Hemisphere. My research focuses on the two main structures and industries at the Mashantucket Reservation: the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center (MPMRC) and the Foxwoods casino. I explore these enterprises as selfrepresentational industries that use display; photographs; narratives of the exotic, the essential, and the real; geographic location; and architectural design to powerfully present and articulate representations of Native American and Mashantucket Pequot identities. My academic and professional interests and strengths combine anthropology, photography, theories of imagining the nation and the creation of tradition, and issues of representational practice, particularly in museum exhibitions. My research investigates self-representational practices, the formation of viable and vibrant reservation communities, and the presentation of historical narratives that support cultural continuity and renaissance. These practices are experienced most vividly in the public sphere through tribal museums and casinos and the popular press and public relations materials associated with them. These industries also mobilize many of the same strategies, narratives, and artifacts. A close examination of these sites and materials affords a further analytical appreciation of issues surrounding the public politics and poetics of cultural self-representation as well as issues of national and community identity.