• The Cult of the Kensington Rune Stone: Cultural Power and the Production of American Civil Religion

      Rey, Terry; Alpert, Rebecca T. (Rebecca Trachtenberg), 1950-; Pahl, Jon, 1958-; Isenberg, Andrew C. (Andrew Christian); Blankinship, Khalid Yahya (Temple University. Libraries, 2011)
      This dissertation is a historical-cultural analysis of the popular enthusiasm for an artifact known as the Kensington Rune Stone (KRS). The verifiable history of the KRS begins in 1898, when a Swedish American immigrant unearthed a large stone from a western Minnesota farm field. On the stone was an inscription written in a runic alphabet telling the story of a party of Scandinavian explorers that had traversed the area in the fourteenth century. Most scholars have declared the stone to be a hoax, yet this has not deterred its ardent defenders from using it to generate cultural capital for several social groups in western Minnesota. Over time, the KRS has emerged as a sacred civic totem representing the region and proclaiming it as founded by Christian Norsemen. KRS enthusiasm developed as a sect of American civil religion that both affirms and challenges the central orthodoxies underlying the myths about the origin of the United States. The mythic narrative constructed around the KRS has been embraced by many Minnesotans for its legitimating power to justify the white settlement of the state. The theoretical orientation of this dissertation relies on several scholars of religion, including Emile Durkheim, Danièle Hervieu-Léger, Pierre Bourdieu, and Thomas A. Tweed.