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14.30  Preserving Heritage Across Time and Place: A Study of German Clubs in America

11:00, Saturday 4 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

This paper will explore the preservation of tangible and intangible heritage practices by German Clubs in America. Empirical evidence combines with testimony and historic records in this research to initiate a critical investigation into the clubs’ motives and methods in maintaining traditions. Further, it will consider the broader implications of the clubs’ cultural role. The preservation of heritage practices beyond the sphere of the family has largely been accomplished through these clubs, which see as their primary goal the conservation and transmission of their and their ancestors’ customs. The clubs function as a way for displaced persons to uphold and participate in customs from their homelands, while also serving as a place to bequeath these practices to future generations. Initially, immigrants formed clubs to create a sense of community, security and familiarity. As a result, a large portion of club life is social. Often existing as a “society within society,” heritage preservation and continuation are prioritized over engagement with contemporary American or German cultures. The clubs’ historic practices are collaged into the fabric of contemporary America reassembling time and space. Looking at the how and why of this preservation, it becomes apparent that the clubs are maintaining traditions for themselves and their communities, rather than enacting them for a public or outside group. Through an investigation of heritage preservation by German clubs in America, this paper will address issues of critical heritage and shifting definitions of self, other, community and place within the contemporary global reality of movement and flux.