• Croatian Diaspora Almanacs: A Historical and Cultural Analysis

      Dalbello, Marija (1999-04)
      The connection of genre to social processes is considered through the lens of printed almanacs issued in North America in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries by the diaspora Croatians. The role of genre in sustaining cultural interactions in that community through communication of memories and meanings of identity is interpreted through multidimensional nature of almanac literacy. The almanacs were analyzed as verbal forms, objects that circulate texts, and texts that produce meaning. This analysis has shown how culture is mediated through the almanac genre's structural elements and the symbolic associations derived from its historical roles. Because genres are not only texts but sets of social, political, and economic interactions among the individuals and groups with which they are associated, the ways in which the almanac trade was organized reflects patterns of socialization of communities and individuals, and their ability to mobilize economic, social, and cultural resources in their production. The corpus of 425 almanacs is analyzed using the methods of textual criticism, book history, and cultural analysis, showing how texts can become an informal writing space in which communities outside the dominant culture could interact, and a written arena for oral production. Diaspora almanacs convey a sense of the marginal spaces in which they were produced, distributed, and used. This is noted in particular in the ambiguous position that the printed almanac held in relation to genres of oral communication. Reliance on visual interfaces in structuring information (pictograms, layout, typography, and the use of image) made these materials accessible to individuals at different levels of reading competence. The analysis has shown that such rhetorical simulation of orality is not functional, but serves to forge identity according to the rules of oral memory adapted for the visual interfaces of print medium. Listing and ordering to lay out information schematically, exemplifies how descriptive styles in presenting information are converted into evaluative narratives which convey ideological arguments. Apart from identifying the characteristics of ordering and transmission of social memory in print medium, this study also points to the connection of literacy and power in shaping the culture of the diaspora Croatians.