Remembering Coummunity in Indiana
by John E. Bodnar
About The Book
For 20 years, the Indiana University Oral History Center collected interviews from hundreds of people who lived in Indiana for most of the 20th century. John Bodnar discovered in these interviews a unique opportunity to examine the true nature of Indiana communities in the early part of the century. Did a fundamental notion of community actually exist in the shared consciousness of those questioned? Bodnar has selected 31 interviews from six different cities: Anderson, Evansville, Indianapolis, Paoli, South Bend, and Whiting. Respondents came from diverse backgrounds and occupations, including farmer, business-person, clerk, housewife, and factory worker.
Community, for these Hoosiers, was synonymous with strong ties to family, friends, and neighbors; a sense of belonging; a strong commitment to moral behavior; and a feeling of interdependence and mutual obligation. They recount how their communities have been undercut by increased mobility, by forms of entertainmentsuch as TVthat are enjoyed in greater isolation, and by an economy that rewards an individualist mind-set. Yet these interviews also point out the constraints of the past’s tight-knit communities. The flip side of obligation was self-sacrifice: many respondents admitted to regrets about lost opportunities. Closeness could mean exclusion, particularly for racial minorities, and technologies that threatened the sense of community also meant better living standards that few would now wish to give up.
About the Author:
John Bodnar, Professor of History and Director of the Oral History Research Center at IU, is the author of several books including Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (1992), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
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