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Keywords:

  • ethnicity;
  • Kansas;
  • place identity;
  • tourism;
  • tradition;
  • Swedish Americans

ABSTRACT. In Lindsborg, Kansas—“Little Sweden, U.S.A.”—the streets are lined with shops offering “An Adventure in Swedish Tradition,” and residents put on numerous festivals throughout the year highlighting Swedish folk customs. Such ethnic tourist towns have become increasingly widespread in the United States over the past thirty years. Tourists tend to perceive these places as towns where folk culture has been passed down unchanged for generations, while academics tend to dismiss residents' ethnicity as crass commercialism. Neither view is correct. Ethnicity and tradition are not static but constantly invented and reinvented. Modern folk ethnicity, among European Americans in particular, is simply the most recent incarnation of this process, one that attempts to recover ties to a specific, small-scale landscape and history. This article explores the changing nature of the narratives of ethnicity and place-based identity that the residents of Lindsborg have used to create a place for themselves in American society.