Recently, while working on a collaborative article about girlhood and material culture, I came across a mention of “Newfoundland cultural historian Stephen Riggins” in a chapter by Jaqueline Reid-Walsh and Claudia Mitchell in Depicting Canada’s Children.
In my notes on their chapter, I wrote “NFLD – Stephen Riggins” because my dissertation is (partially) about Newfoundland, and I found their specificity intriguing.
Later, I read the piece by Riggins that had been cited. His “Fieldwork in the Living Room” offers, among other things, a detailed case study of the Riggins family home. A home located in Loogootee, Indiana. I looked up his bio and sure enough, he even attended Indiana University. This dude was no Newfoundlander.
I get irrationally angry about lots of things, and this was one of them.
“Husband!” I cried out, “Husband! Oh the humanity.”
He barely looked up from
playing Megaman. writing his dissertation.
“Husband! These people said this guy was a Newfoundlander and he is not! He is from Indiana!”
“This one article said this guy was a Newfoundlander but then I looked him up and it turns out he is just from Indiana! He went to school in Bloomington [Indiana]!”
“Maybe he’s an honorary Newfoundlander?”
“You can put a cat in the oven, but that doesn’t mean it will give birth to biscuits!”
A few things happened here. First of all, past Amanda inadvertently mis-read and then mis-informed future Amanda regarding the Newfoundlander-status of Stephen Riggins. The shorthand device “NFLD” worked, in a manner of speaking, because it got me to look into him a bit further. But it failed in so far as I use it as an abbreviation for Newfoundland and Newfoundlaner.
If we return to the original sentence, Riggins is never labelled as a Newfoundlander, but rather as a “Newfoundland cultural historian.” I took this to mean he was from Newfoundland, but in fact his work is about Newfoundland. Takeaway: I should use more precise shorthand.
Secondly, we learned that I am apparently deeply prejudiced against non-Newfoundlanders. And I revert to xenophobic analogies involving kittens when I am under duress. Why do I care if he is or he isn’t from Newfoundland or Indiana or anyplace else? Takeaway: I think I drank too much Canadian Studies Kool-Aid.
All in all, it has been an enlightening evening. Thanks for sharing the journey.