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Alina Zeller

Trachtenvereine in the USA: practices of Bavarian customs associations in the negotiation of German-American ethnicity, culture and tradition

In my dissertation I will investigate the practices of Trachtenvereine or Bavarian and Tyrolean customs associations in the USA between 1880-1930, the period of their first formation. Moreover I will analyze how they created and enact ideas of “Germaness” and the difference to the Austrian members of their community. As the USA were an important nation in the 20th century, the research on those associations will add to the understanding of how this specific representation of German ethnicity spread transnationally and is still present in the ongoing festive culture in the USA. I seeks to close the gap in historiographical research about cultural transfer of German culture and the connection to the movement of Bavarian and Austrian customs associations in the US. Originally formed in Bavaria(the Austrian associations were formed later), the customs associations were brought to the USA by German and Austrian immigrants at the end of the 19th century. The first us-American association formed in 1914, during the time of nation building in the USA and coincides with the beginning of the First World War. They had to negotiate their ethnicity, culture and their traditions to find resonance in challenging times for immigrants, especially Germans, in the USA.

As the associations foremost exercised collective and ritualistic activities the focus of my work lies on their performative and ritualistic practices on an individual and institutional level. Using historical Ego-Documents, programs and minutes of the associations I will be able to grasp their activities and the resonant relationships they formed. Additionally I will use German-American newspapers as a source to analyze the outside perception and interaction with different audiences of German-American festivities. Combining those different levels of analysis I will be able to investigate the meaningful and responsive relationships of Trachtenvereine, with their clothing, country of origin, audience and bigger collectives, like the us-American nation. Furthermore the investigation of practices will allow me to understand connections to and of traditions, cultural transfer and nationalism.

Coordination Erfurt

Dr. Elisabeth Begemann


Coordination Graz

Dr. Anna-Katharina Rieger

Phone:+43 316 380 - +43 (0)316 380 - 2391

Doctoral positions are open for the study year 2023/24. Deadline extended (end of April. For further information on the call see here.

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