We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR
Southerners All?: New Northern Neighbors and the Changing Sense of Place

From: Southern Cultures
Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2010
pp. 65-85 | 10.1353/scu.0.0092

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Southerners All?
New Northern Neighbors and the Changing Sense of Place

Click for larger view
View full resolution

The coastal South is increasingly populated by more people from outside the South than from within it, a shift from the days when these beachgoers visited the Florida coastline in 1941. Photograph courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress.

[End Page 65]

What happens when people from different regions wind up living near one another? How does this play out in the South where, we suspect, a distinct, pre-existing sense of place might lead to an exaggerated contrast between locals and outsiders? What happens when "southerners" become a smaller and smaller proportion of the local population as more and more "northerners" move in? How does such a dynamic change and/or redefine both a place and the people in it? When native southerners interact with people who live in the South but are not from the South, often these contacts give rise to a contested terrain, in which groups vie to claim the same geographic and social space.

In their 2005 Southern Cultures essay "Southerners All?" Larry Griffin, Ranae Evenson, and Ashley Thompson ask if southerners yet appreciate "that southern identity is the collective accomplishment of all in the region, that no single group owns it, and thus that it belongs to all because the region itself is fashioned and continually refashioned by all." The short answer to this question is "No." Claims to southern identity, challenges to local social arrangements, and, most surely, attempts to refashion the South are, in the eyes of many southerners, the prerogative of only those with family roots deep in southern soil. The influx of people from other areas continually refashions the South, yet native southerners claim ownership of the region, resist efforts to change it, and assert the right to determine how it should be changed.1 Even in communities like Beach City (the fictionalized name of our study site), where most residents, even native-born southerners, have moved to the area from somewhere else, clashes over place and identity and change often disrupt social interactions.

The Changing Coastal South

Beach City, like much of the coastal South, has been transformed in recent years from a nonmetropolitan seasonal resort area, where mostly southerners vacationed, to an urban area populated year-round by a large influx of new residents. Of course, the entire South is growing—in particular, North Carolina has grown by at least 14.6 percent, South Carolina by 11.7 percent, and Georgia by 18.3 percent between 2000 and 2008. Much of the growth in these and other southern states is in and adjacent to the states' largest metropolitan areas, Charlotte, Charleston, and Atlanta. The coastal South, though, is growing rapidly as well. The U.S. Census Bureau, in its 2008 population estimates, documents dramatic population growth between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 2008, for coastal counties in the South: a 40.6 percent increase in residents of Camden County, North Carolina, adjacent to the Outer Banks; a 41 percent increase in Brunswick County, North Carolina, where the state's previously quiet southern beaches are located; a 30.9 percent increase [End Page 66] in the population of Horry County, South Carolina's "Grand Strand"; and a 24.4 percent increase in Beaufort County, South Carolina, home to Hilton Head.2


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Claims to southern identity, challenges to local social arrangements, and attempts to refashion the South are, in the eyes of many white southerners, the prerogative of only those with family roots deep in southern soil. Kentucky horse traders, ca. 1940, courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress.

In 1970 only 10 percent of residents of South Carolina were born outside the state, but "[a]s the twenty-first century opened, native South Carolinians in six counties—Aiken, Beaufort, Berkeley, Dorchester, Horry, and York, with its spillover from neighboring Charlotte, North Carolina—found more than half their neighbors were born outside the state." During the 1990s, South Carolina's "heaviest in-migration came from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and...