Home Law Prisons and Punishment in Texas: Culture, History and Museological Representation
IV The Texan Self-identity Past and Present
'Texanicity' and Its Punishment Dimensions
The stories being told about Texan punishment, by the media, by scholars, by politicians and indeed by me, often construct Texas as a place of harsh punishment. However, the Lone Star State is more than just the ‘execution capital of the world’. Proud of its history and of its culture; Texas is a place with its own compelling state history. Speaking about the ways in which the small towns and cities of Texas market themselves to tourists, Avraham and Daugherty (2012, p. 1385) suggest that ‘among US states, arguably the strongest narrative is that of Texas—cowboys, cattle, desert vistas and the Lone Star flag are all widely known, and heavily used, symbols of the Texas story’. Drawing on the work of Avraham and First (2003), which considered how ‘Americanicity’ presented itself in Israeli advertisements, Avraham and Daugherty (2012) go on to speak about the images that define what they term ‘Texasnicity’.
Broadly speaking, Texasnicity is presented by Avraham and Daugherty as a way of describing and analysing the use of state-associated symbols in the marketing of Texas as a place. Indeed the term itself is place- orientated (Txas-nicity). Within this research though, our concerns are less focused on marketing or advertising. Instead, we have been exam-
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 H. Thurston, Prisons and Punishment in Texas,
ining the s tories Texas tells about its own relationship with punishment in its sites of penal tourism. We have been exploring the Texan punishment identity. As such, for our purposes the term Texan-icity is somewhat more appropriate. Rather than being orientated toward Texas as a place, Texanicity is used to refer both to Texas as a place and to Texan as a self-identity. The term Texanicity complements the work of Avraham and Daugherty (2012) in that is offers a more inclusive conceptual framework. It can be used as a tool to examine the self-identity of ‘Texan’ and ‘Texas’ from a criminological perspective. By broadening the parameters, we can begin to consider how the stories we heard in the punishment museums might be placed in wider state narratives of the Lone Star self-identity.
This chapter will thus begin with a discussion about the pervasive use of state symbols in and around the punishment museums of Texas. We have already heard the stories Texas is telling about punishment (in Part III), but now our attention will move to the environment in which these stories are told. We will shift our analytical lens from narrative content to narrative context, viewing the museum—in its entirety—as a storied space. It will be argued that the pervasive use of state-associated symbols in sites of penal tourism locate Texan punishment stories within a much more pervasive image of self-identity. Within these sites the symbols of Texanicity acquire punishment dimensions.
Moreover, as suggested in the concluding paragraphs of the previous chapter, when travelling around the Lone Star State it is hard not to conclude that this is something of a two-way process. While the symbols of Texas were found in the punishment museums, punishment symbols were likewise found all over Texas. In places and spaces which had no observable connection to penal punishment, Texas is nevertheless choosing to tell its stories of toughness and boldness in the penal sphere. In short then, this chapter seeks to broaden the analysis, firstly by considering the influence of state symbols in punishment museums and secondly by discussing the ways in which the Texan self-identity, or Texanicity, acquires punishment dimensions outside of those tourist spaces.
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