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frontporch The Confederate States of America once pinned its hopes on foreign recognition . Those were the days of "cotton diplomacy," when southern exports were deemed essential to the British economy, and Confederate leaders proudly boasted that the industrial nations of Europe could never survive without the South. "You dare not make war on cotton," vaunted James Henry Hammond, senator from South Carolina. "No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king." Needless to say, things didn'twork out the way the senator intended. As it happened , the outside world needed the South much less than the other way around, and moral and cultural isolation have seemed more typical ofDixie's history than the superpower status projected for the Cotton Kingdom. A good bit ofthis isolation has been self-imposed, as defeat, impoverishment, and immobility pushed the postbellum South into more than its share of self-absorption. above: Union Street in Plymouth, Devon, England,January 1961. Courtesy ofthe Plymouth City Museum. In a larger sense, however, the South has never lacked foreign recognition, and never more so than in the twentieth century. From J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur in the eighteenth century to V. S. Naipaul in the present, foreign visitors have put us in their travel plans. Southern music, from jazz to blues to country and western, blasts out of boom boxes from Japan to Eastern Europe. Faulkner, Disneyland, and Elvis continue to fascinate, and for better or worse, the Confederate batde flag flies in many places as a multipurpose symbol ofrebellion. Nor is the South isolated from the rest of the world. With soccer fields and sushi bars all over its suburbs, and Mercedes under construction in Alabama, the outside world has come to us in a big way. Professor Michael O'Brien is uniquely well-placed to assess all of this. Born and brought up in Britain, he is an expert on southern intellectual history who divides his time between Miami University of Ohio and Cambridge University of England. O'Brien has served on the editorial board oíSouthern Cultures from the outset, and when he agreed to put together a special issue for us on the South and the world beyond America, we jumped at the chance. As guest editor, O'Brien has assembled an all-star team of writers. Most of them come from outside the United States or have extensive experience talking and teaching about the South to non-Americans. Collectively, they tell us that there is lively interest in the South out there, more perhaps than native southerners have realized. In his own essay, O'Brien reminds us that southerners are in the habit of thinking of themselves in binary opposition to northerners, but that the rest of the world is not so stricdy limited. On a planet where regionalism is increasingly ascendant, the South can relate to Scodand, Catalonia, Quebec, and Hong Kong as one subnational entity among many. And unlike some of our counterparts, our region lost its war for political independence long ago, without giving up its cultural identity. This is a message worth spreading. To join a world ofdisparate regions and provinces, the South has to remember that foreign recognition is a two-way street: we'll have to recognize the "foreign" to get the same in return. That's a complex process, and we may be out of practice , but the only way to get started is to plunge right in. The authors in this issue are an excellent group to start listening to, for they bring a wide variety of perspectives on why the South is interesting to many people the world over. A different editor and a different kind of topic may give this issue of Southern Cultures a slightiy different format and perhaps a slightiy different "feel" from the ones our readers are used to, but we hope you are as happy with the result as we are. As they say in Paris, Texas, vive la différence. harry watson, Coeditor Front Porch ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 1-2
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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