Theses Doctoral

More Than a Feeling: Exploring the Affective Entanglements of Meaning-Making at the National September 11th Memorial Museum

Weller, Allison M.

Within social studies and heritage education, the affective turn has led to an increased interest in sites of difficult history. Although there is a plethora of cross-disciplinary theoretical research that suggests affect plays a significant role in meaning-making in these spaces, there are few empirical studies that examine this assumption.

Moreover, the empirical studies that do exist tend to focus on student experiences in these spaces, seemingly excluding the important consideration of how teachers construct meaning through affective engagement and practices. As many teachers seek out heritage sites to better their pedagogical preparation to teach difficult histories, it is necessary to further understand their experiences in these spaces, as this can provide insight into how historical narratives and heritage are constructed and passed on.

Utilizing semi-structure interviews, photo-elicitation, and sensory ethnographic place-making methodologies, this dissertation conceptualizes the affective meaning-making processes that three teachers engaged in during their encounters with the National September 11th Memorial Museum (NS11MM). Categorized as emotions, memory, historical proximity, and authenticity, these affective meaning-making processes deeply impacted what three high school social studies teachers took away from their visits to the National September 11th Memorial Museum (NS11MM), resulting in a decentered, patriotic perspective grounded in American exceptionalism, innocence, and unity. Understanding the affective entanglements of the three teachers in their encounters with the NS11MM provides insight into how meaning, understood as historical understanding and significance, is constructed at sites of difficult history.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Teaching of Social Studies
Thesis Advisors
Schmidt, Sandra
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 27, 2022