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Southern Heritage on Display

Public Ritual and Ethnic Diversity within Southern Regionalism

Written by Celeste Ray, with contributions from Melissa Schrift, Celeste Ray, He

Publication Year: 2003

This provocative collection draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork to shed light on the role that public ceremonies play in affirming or debunking cultural identities associated with the South. W. J. Cash's 1941 observation that "there are many Souths and many cultural traditions among them" is certainly validated by this book. Although the Civil War and its "lost cause" tradition continues to serve as a cultural root paradigm in celebrations, both uniting and dividing loyalties, southerners also embrace a panoply of public rituals—parades, cook-offs, kinship homecom-ings, church assemblies, music spectacles, and material culture exhibitions—that affirm other identities. From the Appalachian uplands to the Mississippi Delta, from Kentucky bluegrass to Carolina piedmont, southerners celebrate in festivals that showcase their diverse cultural backgrounds and their mythic beliefs about themselves. The ten essays of this cohesive, interdisciplinary collection present event-centered research from various fields of study—anthropology, geography, history, and literature—to establish a rich, complex picture of the stereotypically "Solid South." Topics include the Mardi Gras Indian song cycle as a means of expressing African-American identity in New Orleans; powwow performances and Native American traditions in southeast North Carolina; religious healings in southern Appalachian communities; Mexican Independence Day festivals in central Florida; and, in eastern Tennessee, bonding ceremonies of melungeons who share Indian, Scots Irish, Mediterranean, and African ancestry. Seen together, these public heritage displays reveal a rich "creole" of cultures that have always been a part of southern life and that continue to affirm a flourishing regionalism. This book will be valuable to students and scholars of cultural anthropology, American studies, and southern history; academic and public libraries; and general readers interested in the American South. It contributes a vibrant, colorful layer of understanding to the continuously emerging picture of complexity in this region historically depicted by simple stereotypes. Celeste Ray is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, and author of Highland Heritage: Scottish Americans in the American South.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-37

Much of the ink spilt defining, explaining, or explaining away the South has examined successive myths of the region. Charles Reagan Wilson summarizes the sequence as follows: “The mythic perspective on Southern history would begin with the idea of a Colonial Eden, then portray the romantic Old South and the crusading Lost Cause, followed by the...

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1. “Keeping Jazz Funerals Alive”: Blackness and the Politics of Memory in New Orleans

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pp. 38-56

I heard a tourist couple ask a grand marshal at a funeral, “This dead man must have been quite a big figure to rate a big funeral like this, huh?” The answer was the usual one, “Oh, no, he was just an ordinary fellow, an old porter who worked at a bank for forty-five years. He was a paid-up member in the old society, and that’s what the society does—turn out with...

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2. The Mardi Gras Indian Song Cycle: A Heroic Tradition

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pp. 57-78

Like other great annual festivals, Mardi Gras affirms memory and continuity amid change. In the Caribbean and in Brazil, as well as around New Orleans, the very permissive Mardi Gras festival tradition allows participants to parody the authorities, invert the power structure, and play with gender codes. On this single day, people may costume themselves and...

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3. “There’s a Dance Every Weekend”: Powwow Culture in Southeast North Carolina

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pp. 79-105

On a June afternoon last year, Derek Lowry and I visited with members of the Ray Littleturtle family in their Pembroke, North Carolina, home to talk about powwow culture in North Carolina’s Indian communities. Derek, a Tuscarora in his mid-forties, and Ray, a Lumbee in his mid-sixties, are longtime powwowers and mainstays in the East...

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4. Melungeons and the Politics of Heritage

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pp. 106-129

When I entered one of the family chat rooms during the Melungeon Third Union, I quietly took my place in the circle of people sitting on the floor. I was running a little late and did not want to interrupt the host, who was explaining her ability to tell a Melungeon by the way he or she stood for a photograph. After she spoke, all the participants introduced...

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5. Kin-Religious Gatherings: Display for an “Inner Public”

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pp. 130-143

One May more than thirty years ago, I boarded a Greyhound Bus in Gainesville, Florida, and headed to the summer community of Montreat, North Carolina, for my first anthropological fieldwork, which was to be the basis of my doctoral dissertation. The summer I spent at Montreat opened my eyes to a complicated and beautiful process in the American...

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6. Religious Healing in Southern Appalachian Communities

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pp. 144-166

Mary was canning pickles as I stepped through the kitchen doorway on an August afternoon. Mary, a seventy-six-year-old widow, was the one to first introduce me to the Missionary Baptist church I attended over several years in Bradford County, North Carolina. The mother-in-law of the preacher who founded the church, Mary and her family, including...

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pp. 167-193

On a gray Saturday morning in September, a multiethnic group of volunteers and organizers huddles beneath a metal-roofed pavilion at the Eustis fairgrounds in rural, central Florida. They have gathered to decorate and prepare the pavilion and the adjacent exhibition hall for the annual Mexican Independence Day festival, sponsored by the Office of...

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8. Forget the Alamo: Fiesta and San Antonio’s Public Memory

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pp. 194-217

For most of the twentieth century San Antonio has been nationally known as the Alamo city. The site and the 1836 battle cast an enduring shadow on accounts of the city’s past and present. In the decades following the Texas Revolution and U.S. annexation, the call to “remember the Alamo” became a justification for Anglo hegemony and the...

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9. “Where the Old South Still Lives”: Displaying Heritage in Natchez, Mississippi

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pp. 218-250

On a warm March afternoon an elderly, but most assuredly not frail, woman greets her many hundred visitors. Wearing a crisply pressed blouse and hoopskirt that have maintained their shape despite the already oppressive Mississippi humidity, she gracefully conceals a half-smoked cigarette behind her back and receives another group: “I’m Alma Carpenter...

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10. “‘Thigibh!’ Means ‘Y’all Come!’”: Renegotiating Regional Memories through Scottish Heritage Celebration

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pp. 251-282

On a rainy July day at MacRae Meadows on North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain, a small crowd clusters tightly together under Donald MacDonald’s Gàidhlig Céilidh tent, straining to hear a single, clear voice raised in a Gaelic lament. They have come to listen to the annual Mòd (a solo singing competition in the Gaelic language) at the Grandfather...


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pp. 283-293


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pp. 295-296


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pp. 297-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382254
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817352868

Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 248421017
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Southern Heritage on Display

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Memory -- Social aspects -- Southern States.
  • Minorities -- Southern States -- Social life and customs.
  • Southern States -- Ethnic relations.
  • Rites and ceremonies -- Southern States.
  • Southern States -- Social conditions -- 1945-.
  • Festivals -- Social aspects -- Southern States.
  • Southern States -- Social life and customs -- 1865-.
  • Group identity -- Southern States.
  • Cultural pluralism -- Southern States.
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