City of neighborhoods: Memory, folklore, and ethnic place in Boston

Research output: Book/ReportBook

7 Scopus citations


In January 2006, as a graduate student in the Folklore Program at the University of California-Berkeley, I traveled to South Boston, Massachusetts, to conduct fieldwork on a century-old tradition of "polar bear," or year-round, swimming, practiced by a local group known as the L Street Brownies. The Brownies have a uniquely central position in South Boston culture, so it was not surprising that the group chose the theme of "Southie pride" for their 2006 New Year's Day Plunge, an event typically marked by a festive atmosphere and huge media attention.1 But, standing in a packed gymnasium and getting ready to run into the frigid waters, I took note of an older man standing nearby. Apparently in keeping with the Brownies' theme, he wore a greenand- white knit tam-o'-shanter, a hat often associated with Irish ethnicity. In fact, glancing around the room, I noticed a lot of Irish symbolism: shamrocks, kilts, bagpipes, and green clothing. Since South Boston is generally conceived of as an Irish American enclave, this widespread conflation of ethnic symbols with local identity initially seemed an unremarkable feature of neighborhood symbolism. After all, if Southie is Irish, then what is more natural than to employ Irish American symbols to celebrate "Southie pride"?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherUniversity of Wisconsin Press
Number of pages237
ISBN (Electronic)9780299307134
ISBN (Print)0299307131, 9780299307103
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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