Saturday, February 07, 2009

Book of Pittsburgh Connections

I don't know if exactly replicating the Book of Scottish Connections makes sense, but the premise is promising:

As part of Homecoming 2009 Scots who live overseas are being encouraged to register key events in their lives in the Book of Scottish Connections.

It aims to help build and maintain links with the Scottish diaspora.

The first certificate from the book is being presented to Lolita and David Lavery, who married in South Africa.

They will return to the online record to register another life event in July when Lolita, who is expecting triplets, is due to give birth.

Enterprise minister Jim Mather said: "The Homecoming celebrations present the perfect opportunity to kindle pride in Scots at home and connect with the many millions of people overseas who are of Scottish descent or simply love Scotland.

Tying important life events to a certain geography is a powerful way to build a sense of community. The way the Steelers are tied to the Pittsburgh landscape represents a similar opportunity:

Nick Neupauer is president of Butler Community College in northwestern Pennsylvania. He’s 41 years old, married with two kids, and he wears a tie to work every day.

He’s also been a Steelers fan his entire life, which makes him, well, sick.

Take his 1994 wedding to his wife, Tammy. At the reception, Nick got on one knee to slide the garter off his wife’s thigh.

Instead of grabbing the undergarment, however, he pulled a Terry Bradshaw doll from one sleeve of his tuxedo, a Terrible Towel from the other and then cued the disc jockey, who began playing the Steelers’ fight song.

Steelers fans exhibit all the trappings of nationalism. Add to that the wedding cookie table or the Eastern European cuisine that now represents Pittsburgh-ness. Now wash all that down with a German style pilsner.

Actually, such traditions are older than nationalism, which was born in the late 19th-century. Not coincidentally, the social sciences started around the same time. States assumed the responsibility of regulating populations and disparate cultural exhibitions were appropriated. Weaving together parochial landscapes and forming a coherent nation-state was a feat of redoubtable engineering. The grand narrative was reinforced by the science of geography and demography. I see the PittsburghToday project in the same light. Missing is the grand narrative.

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