What Is (Not) Buried with Anton Pučelík?: Revisiting Willa Cather’s Prophecy of the Tenacity of Czech American Culture in the Bohemian Alps, Nebraska
Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly, Volume 42, Numbers 1-2, Winter-Spring 2022, pp. 91-126
This article focuses on the distinct aspects of Czech American living culture in Nebraska and invites new perspectives on immigration discourse. The state of Nebraska experienced significant Czech and European immigration. This study rethinks the Czech American immigrants’ legacy as it explores its current sociocultural and linguistic capital, local voices, and relevant historical context. It is inspired by research field trips in 2017–2021 to Czech American communities in Nebraska, especially in the Bohemian Alps (Saunders, Butler, and Colfax Counties). It explores the reasons for Czech American culture’s perseverance and social meanings and its unique preservation of language, culture, and traditions. It uses the so-called literary ethnography method, which narrates observations of social practices and interactions in the present. The study bears time-sensitive importance, as it utilizes interviews and data to explore the inner workings of this particular culture. Further, the study considers Willa Cather’s observations on the cultural tenacity of Czech and immigrant culture in the 1920s and her Eurocentric omissions of indigenous cultures. It considers acculturation tensions that immigrants faced as reasons for cultural conservation. It incorporates Ted Kooser’s and Mike Farrell’s artistic statements on the region and its people. Reevaluating the legacy of the immigrants’ cultures from the immigrants’ perspective a hundred years later, the study examines how the imported and adapted meanings of a small European cultural nation (eventually forming the state of Czechoslovakia in 1918) and Old World nationalism became the basis for the current Czech American identity. This article hopes to advance the current understanding of immigrants and immigration in Nebraska and beyond while it examines Czech American identity and living culture in the Bohemian Alps of Nebraska. This study hopes to invigorate the discussion of the meanings of linguistic and cultural preservation within complex American identity.