Centralia and its Rhetorical Remnants: Ambient Reimagination of Discarded Space

Meghann E. McGuire, University of Colorado Boulder


This thesis explores Centralia, Pennsylvania, an “abandoned” town that now remains mostly through its status as a ghost town. I argue that the town functions as a discarded space that holds particular rhetorical remnants, which negotiate and circulate public memory in the former town. I call rhetorical remnants those structures of the built environment that remain and continue to rhetorically participate in the circulation of public memory. The rhetorical remnants I will explore include Centralia’s municipal building and its last remaining church. I will also argue that Centralia’s Graffiti Highway functions as both a rhetorical remnant of Centralia and as a discarded space in its own right. Finally, this thesis considers how discarded spaces, which allow for a multiplicity of voices to contribute to the negotiation of public memory, are sites of emergent potential by way of ambient reimagination, which allows for a consideration of future possibilities related to equality and sustainability.