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Memory. 2010 Feb;18(2):208-24. doi: 10.1080/09658210903176478.

Generosity or genocide? Identity implications of silence in American Thanksgiving commemorations.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA.


This paper investigates the identity implications of silence about genocide in commemorations of American Thanksgiving. In Study 1 we assessed the co-occurrence of national glorification themes with different forms of silence in commemoration products by conducting a content analysis of presidential Thanksgiving proclamations. In Study 2 we examined the extent to which different commemoration products are infused with particular beliefs and desires by measuring participants' reactions to different Thanksgiving commemorations-a literal-silence condition that did not mention Indigenous Peoples, an interpretive-silence condition that mentioned Indigenous Peoples but did not explicitly mention genocidal conquest, and an anti-silence condition that did mention genocidal conquest-as a function of national glorification. In Study 3 we manipulated exposure to different Thanksgiving commemorations (with associated forms of silence) and assessed the impact on national glorification and identity-relevant action. Results provide evidence for the hypothesised, bi-directional relationship between national glorification and silence about genocide in commemorations of American Thanksgiving.

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