The University of North Carolina Press

New Directions in Southern Studies

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New Directions in Southern Studies

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Baptized in PCBs

Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town

Ellen Griffith Spears

In the mid-1990s, residents of Anniston, Alabama, began a legal fight against the agrochemical company Monsanto over the dumping of PCBs in the city's historically African American and white working-class west side. Simultaneously, Anniston environmentalists sought to safely eliminate chemical weaponry that had been secretly stockpiled near the city during the Cold War. In this probing work, Ellen Griffith Spears offers a compelling narrative of Anniston's battles for environmental justice, exposing how systemic racial and class inequalities reinforced during the Jim Crow era played out in these intense contemporary social movements.

Spears focuses attention on key figures who shaped Anniston--from Monsanto's founders, to white and African American activists, to the ordinary Anniston residents whose lives and health were deeply affected by the town's military-industrial history and the legacy of racism. Situating the personal struggles and triumphs of Anniston residents within a larger national story of regulatory regimes and legal strategies that have affected toxic towns across America, Spears unflinchingly explores the causes and implications of environmental inequalities, showing how civil rights movement activism undergirded Anniston's campaigns for redemption and justice.

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Beyond the Crossroads

The Devil and the Blues Tradition

Adam Gussow

The devil is the most charismatic and important figure in the blues tradition. He's not just the music's namesake ("the devil's music"), but a shadowy presence who haunts an imagined Mississippi crossroads where, it is claimed, Delta bluesman Robert Johnson traded away his soul in exchange for extraordinary prowess on the guitar. Yet, as scholar and musician Adam Gussow argues, there is much more to the story of the devil and the blues than these cliched understandings.

In this groundbreaking study, Gussow takes the full measure of the devil's presence. Working from original transcriptions of more than 125 recordings released during the past ninety years, Gussow explores the varied uses to which black southern blues people have put this trouble-sowing, love-wrecking, but also empowering figure. The book culminates with a bold reinterpretation of Johnson's music and a provocative investigation of the way in which the citizens of Clarksdale, Mississippi, managed to rebrand a commercial hub as "the crossroads" in 1999, claiming Johnson and the devil as their own.

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Calypso Magnolia

The Crosscurrents of Caribbean and Southern Literature

John Wharton Lowe

In this far-reaching literary history, John Wharton Lowe remakes the map of American culture by revealing the deep, persistent connections between the ideas and works produced by writers of the American South and the Caribbean. Lowe demonstrates that a tendency to separate literary canons by national and regional boundaries has led critics to ignore deep ties across highly permeable borders. Focusing on writers and literatures from the Deep South and Gulf states in relation to places including Mexico, Haiti, and Cuba, Lowe reconfigures the geography of southern literature as encompassing the "circumCaribbean," a dynamic framework within which to reconsider literary history, genre, and aesthetics.

Considering thematic concerns such as race, migration, forced exile, and colonial and postcolonial identity, Lowe contends that southern literature and culture have always transcended the physical and political boundaries of the American South. Lowe uses cross-cultural readings of nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers, including William Faulkner, Martin Delany, Zora Neale Hurston, George Lamming, Cristina Garcia, Edouard Glissant, and Madison Smartt Bell, among many others, to make his argument. These literary figures, Lowe argues, help us uncover new ways of thinking about the shared culture of the South and Caribbean while demonstrating that southern literature has roots even farther south than we realize.

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Hard, Hard Religion

Interracial Faith in the Poor South

John Hayes

In his captivating study of faith and class, John Hayes examines the ways folk religion in the early twentieth century allowed the South's poor--both white and black--to listen, borrow, and learn from each other about what it meant to live as Christians in a world of severe struggle. Beneath the well-documented religious forms of the New South, people caught in the region's poverty crafted a distinct folk Christianity that spoke from the margins of capitalist development, giving voice to modern phenomena like alienation and disenchantment. Through haunting songs of death, mystical tales of conversion, grassroots sacramental displays, and an ethic of neighborliness, impoverished folk Christians looked for the sacred in their midst and affirmed the value of this life in this world.

From Tom Watson and W. E. B. Du Bois over a century ago to political commentators today, many have ruminated on how, despite material commonalities, the poor of the South have been perennially divided by racism. Through his excavation of a folk Christianity of the poor, which fused strands of African and European tradition into a new synthesis, John Hayes recovers a historically contingent moment of interracial exchange generated in hardship.

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Lynching and Spectacle

Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940

Amy Louise Wood

Lynch mobs in late 19th- and early 20th-century America often exacted horrifying public torture and mutilation on their victims. Amy Wood explains what it meant for white Americans to perform and witness these sadistic spectacles and what they derived from them. Lynching, Wood argues, overlapped with a wide range of cultural practices and performances, both traditional and modern, including public executions, religious rituals, photography, and cinema. The connections between lynching and these practices encouraged the horrific violence committed and gave it social acceptability.

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Memphis and the Paradox of Place

Globalization in the American South

Wanda Rushing

Using Memphis as a case study, Rushing explores the significance of place in a globalizing age. Challenging the view that globalization renders place generic or insignificant, Rushing argues that cultural and economic distinctiveness persists in part because of global processes, not in spite of them. Rushing weaves her analysis into stories about the history and global impact of blues music, the social and racial complexities of Cotton Carnival, and the global rise of FedEx, headquartered in Memphis. She portrays Memphis as a site of cultural creativity and global industry--a city whose traditions, complex past, and specific character have had an influence on culture worldwide.

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Southscapes

Geographies of Race, Region, and Literature

Thadious M. Davis

By interpreting segregation as the central experience for twenty-first century southern literature (just as slavery was for an earlier generation of writers) and by theorizing the interconnected aspects of racial and spatial constructions in the formation of the nation, Davis shows us a way to understand black space--social, spatial, and artistic arenas of creativity--not just in terms of exclusion and of pushing back/reacting against, but as sites of memory and imagination far beyond wounds and danger. Looking inside the boundaries of segregation, Davis charts the trajectory from modernism to postmodernism in the works of Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Ernest Gaines, Natasha Trethewey, Olympia Vernon, Brenda Marie Osbey, Sybil Kein, and Shay Youngblood. This analysis, working at the intersection of race, gender, place, and region, will likely become a standard work in new southern studies.

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This Ain't Chicago

Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South

Zandria F. Robinson

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