A secret reservoir of values: the narrative economy of Angel Island Immigration Station

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An interest in narrative has done much to shed light on our understandings of geography. Studies linking narrative to nation building, the making of place, identity, the region, the spaces of health, heritage, and environmental history, give some indication of the breadth at which geographical scholarship has been pushed forward by an applied interest in stories. This article attempts to develop such work with a particular focus on the performative capacities of narrative; how stories might work towards various recuperative outcomes. It discusses the revision of historic tours around Angel Island Immigration Station, a California State Park property and National Historic Landmark with reference to the term narrative economy. The Immigration Station plays host to a narrative economy where stories circulating around the site acquire value on the basis of their factual content and their compatibility with a set of approved messages. Some of these stories are disputed and devalued so as to distinguish them from factual ‘histories’ produced by recently commissioned research. The article considers how heritage sites negotiate tensions between the burden of representational accuracy and the need to function more broadly as platforms for liberatory intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-275
Number of pages17
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2010


  • Angel Island Immigration Station
  • heritage
  • narrative economy
  • story
  • truth


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