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Title:We Are Getting Mellow: Self and Reflexivity in High School Reunions in the United States
Author(s):Ikeda, Keiko
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bruner, Edward M.
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American Studies
Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:The high school reunion is a popular event throughout the United States, cutting across locality and age. It is commonly thought of as a light-hearted social occasion or an exercise in nostalgia that has little significance in participants' lives. It is not. The high school reunion is a rich and often poignant experience for many Americans.
In this dissertation I examine this popular American ritual as a dramatic scene in the construction of self and meaning in American adulthood. I argue that the high school reunion provides adult Americans with an opportunity to reflect on their lives and evaluate their unfolding biographies. Moreover, in the reflexive processes that emerge in the reunion, participants construct new stories and symbols. These, in turn, give direction to individual sense-making activities in ways that take into account culture and history.
This central theme is discussed from various angles: the processes inherent in the high school reunion that foster reflexivity and meaning; how lifecourse and historical positions of a high school cohort shape the collective construction of meaning; how a reunion intersects with individual biographies and how people make use of the ritual occasion to achieve individual biographical goals (examining not only what ritual does to people but what people do with ritual events); and how the reunion experience changes across the lifecourse.
Finally, I argue that high school reunions provide Americans an overview of wider societal patterns of lifecourse, and create symbols and narratives for understanding life that give concrete shape to otherwise obscure notions of personal growth, success and maturity in the fragmented, changing landscape of American adulthood.
Issue Date:1993
Description:231 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9411662
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1993

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