Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version

December 2006

Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Major: Communication Studies. Under the Supervision of Professor Ronald Lee. Lincoln, Nebraska, December 2006. Copyright 2006 Laura L. Pierson.


This dissertation uses phenomenology, along with a constructionist framework, to explore the ways an ethnic community in central Texas constructs and communicates its cultural identity. The first goal of this study (RQ1) was to describe how the people of Norse, Texas experience ethnicity. The second goal of this study (RQ2) was to discover how this ethnicity was communicatively constructed and maintained. The third goal of this study (RQ3) was to learn how the relationship between ethnic identity and communication contributes to the creation of shared meanings within the community. The fourth goal (RQ4) of this study was to describe the meaning(s) that the people of Norse attribute to the cultural practices that reflect their ethnicity. The fifth goal of this study (RQ5) was to discern how the people of Norse use language and communication to validate their identity. The first part of this dissertation is devoted to an explanation of how identity and communication are inter-related and dependent upon each other, the process of assimilation and its effects upon immigrants, ethnic revival, including among white ethnic groups, and other identity issues such as naming and land. Second, the ethnic Norwegian community of Norse, Texas is discussed. Third, phenomenology as descriptive framework, and the methods and procedures of the study are described. The second part of this dissertation is devoted to the results of the study. Here, the cultural identity and the communication patterns of the people of Norse are discussed. The last two chapters are devoted to an analysis and summary of the study. Here, it is revealed that the people of Norse still strongly identify with their Norwegian heritage, and that they reaffirm this identity by sharing symbolic forms and by participating in cultural rituals with others. The most important of these symbolic forms and cultural rituals includes Christmas celebrations, lutefisk, and the Lutheran church, all of which are strong Norwegian cultural markers for the area. This section also discusses the marketing of ethnic identity to promote the area’s cultural heritage as well as to bring in revenue for the community. Concluding the final chapter are the limitations and contributions of this study, and suggestions for future research.
Advisor: Dr. Ronald Lee