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House Signs and Collegiate Fun

Sex, Race, and Faith in a College Town

Chaise LaDousa

Publication Year: 2011

It's no secret that fun is important to American college students, but it is unusual for scholars to pay attention to how undergraduates represent and reflect on their partying. Linguist and anthropologist Chaise LaDousa explores the visual manifestations of collegiate fun in a Midwestern college town where house signs on off-campus student residences are a focal point of college culture. With names like Boot 'N Rally, The Plantation, and Crib of the Rib, house signs reproduce consequential categories of gender, sexuality, race, and faith in a medium students say is benign. Through his analysis of house signs and what students say about them, LaDousa introduces the reader to key concepts and approaches in cultural analysis.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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p. xi

Although responsibility for the ideas presented in this book is ultimately mine alone, students engaged in much of the fieldwork on which this book is based. While I cannot re-create the energy that fueled the seminars in anthropology that brought us together, I hope that my students’ unanimous enthusiasm for the investigation of the world of their peers will be obvious throughout. ...

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pp. xiii-xv

I am most indebted to the students at Miami University who were involved with this project. Research subjects invited us into their named houses and indulged our concerns with wit and verve. Students in my course asked questions, listened patiently, and discussed the recorded interviews in class. Given ...

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p. xvii

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Introduction: House Signs and Their Display

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pp. 1-30

On being hired by the Department of Anthropology at Miami University in a visiting teaching position, I drove to Oxford, a town in southwestern Ohio, to meet a realtor and secure a place to live. As I drove into town, I saw a huge sign attached to a house with the words “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” painted on it. I saw yet more signs attached to houses, more than I could remember after ...

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1. Bed Booze & Beyond: History and Ethnography of Collegiate Fun

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pp. 31-61

Even a brief glance at the list of names of houses in Oxford (Table 1.1) confirms something noted by anthropologists, folklorists, historians, and sociologists who have studied life in U.S. colleges and universities: having fun is of paramount importance in the lives of students. The first three house names, for example, invoke something like the familiar trio, “sex, drugs, and rock ’n ...

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2. Witty House Name: The Textual Lives of House Signs

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pp. 63-116

Whatever else house signs are—pieces of wood, metal, or plastic—they are texts. The notion of text is a staple of scholarship in anthropology and folklore. Textuality, the quality that makes a text a text, might be imagined as something like a force that emerges from the interrelatedness of elements in unfolding discourse, whether spoken, sung, heard, read, remembered, or ...

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3. Inn Pursuit . . . of Christ: The Unevenness of Agency

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pp. 117-151

Though the argument thus far has been that residents of named houses are unanimous in their belief that house signs should be clever, are easier to remember than the house’s street address, and indicate activities within that can be summed up as “partying,” there are more subtle boundaries between groups of residents delimited by what they hope their signs will (or won’t) ...

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4. Ghetto Fabulous and Plantation: Racial Difference in a Space of Fun

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pp. 153-193

Like many towns and cities in which institutions of higher education exist, Oxford has a ghetto. This is where most of the named houses considered in this chapter are located, and “Ghetto” is common in names. College Prowler, a series of guidebooks that focus on student life, first mentions the Ghetto in the chapter entitled “Nightlife” under the heading “Local Traditions.”1 It appears in the context of a description ...

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5. Hot Box, Box Office, and Fill’er Up: Reflections on Gender and Sexuality

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pp. 195-236

In keeping with the goals of writing this book—particularly the argument for the consideration of language in context—I hope that the passage above prompts a number of questions. All of the statements are rather absolute, and all but the last are commands. We know that the person being commanded is a female college student, and Dorson tells us that the person issuing the commands is the dean of women. ...

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Conclusion: Remarks on Cultural Production and Ethnography

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pp. 237-240

This book has focused largely on some of the ways in which college students at Miami University who display house signs in Oxford reflected on the phenomenon during interviews conducted by my students and me. Emergent from these reflections are general lessons about the production of language and culture, as well as the importance of ethnography in its exploration. We learned quickly, for example, that ...


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pp. 241-245


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pp. 247-258


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pp. 259-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001658
E-ISBN-10: 025300165X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356420

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 50 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 735596777
MUSE Marc Record: Download for House Signs and Collegiate Fun

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • College campuses -- United States.
  • Signs and signboards -- United States.
  • Universities and colleges -- United States.
  • Universities and colleges -- Social aspects -- United States.
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