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

"Identity" is a big deal these days. A quick check ofthe Internet reveals three categories and 540 separate Web sites containing the keyword "identity." Contrary to what university-based identity watchers might think, most ofthem have to do with corporate identity. It seems there are lots of unidentified businesses out there, all in need ofother businesses who can set them up with corporate logos, Web sites, direct mail, print advertising, product design, and everything else an up-to-date identity requires. And ifyou need to change your business identity, the corporate identifiers can fix you right up with the necessary changes to all of the above. Ifanyone ever doubted the constructed nature ofidentity, here's the proof. The rest of the Internet's "identity" entries are a good deal more earnest. The obvious assortment of ethnic identities are up for discussion: Indian American (not the same as Native American), Jewish, Australian, Asian American, African American female, biracial, "Mexican—Not Latino—Not Hispanic," even Breton . There are discussions ofgender identity, sexual identity, dissociative identity disorder, and die real identities ofJesus and Shakespeare. There is also one Web above: Courtesy ofAuburn University Department ofArchives andManuscripts. site described as "the only page ever needed for a man struggling to find his true identity," which takes its philosophical cue from the teachings ofConan the Barbarian . Really. The typical explanations for all this current interest in identity usually invoke the impersonality of modern life, the need to claim something unique, personal, and authentic in the face ofanonymous, media-driven mass culture, and, as often as not, a deep-seated grievance against past attempts—often quite successful—to ridicule, marginalize, penalize, or repress some distinctive aspect of personal or group identity. Southerners are well aware of the celebrative and punitive aspects of group identity. Most any southerner can tell you about some time or another when he or she felt labeled with an unwelcome stereotype, and felt the urge to deny that southernness could be summed up in any particular trait or image. Without batting an eye at the contradiction, many ofus are just as ready to complete the sentence "all southerners are -----------" with any number of complimentary words and phrases. Even ifwe resist the urge to typecast, we're all familiar with the images that southerners and nonsoutherners alike resort to in tales about southern identity: poor, dumb, bigoted, aristocratic, violent, polite. Scarlett O'Hara and the Beverly Hillbillies. Uncle Remus and Preacher Nat. nascar races and the debutante ball. To face the truth squarely, it would be hard to argue that Southern Cultures is not part ofthe South's cult ofregional identity. Chewing over various facets ofbeing southern seems to be what our authors do best. And why not? Given the obvious power ofthe identity question to rivet modern attention, there doesn't seem to be any likelihood that people will give up dwelling on this subject for something else. Under the circumstances, skeptical and reflective explorations of the identity question look like a big improvement over some of the uglier forms of identity politics we see out there, from Bosnia to places nearer by. Certainly the authors in this issue take that approach, and we hope you enjoy their musings as much as we have. Two enduring stereotypes of southern female identity are the "Lady" and the "Sharecropper." The lady is famous from her starring role in a thousand movies and plantation romances. She is beautiful, graceful, courteous, charitable, and charming; she is as well bred on the outside as a chest full of family silver and as steely inside as Uncle Beauregard's cavalry sword. The female sharecropper stares at us from numerous wpa photographs: gaunt, haggard, beaten down with suffering , hardened with toil and ignorance, everybody's favorite victim. Can the identities of "lady" and "sharecropper" go together? The stereotypes say "no," but Elizabeth Payne's study ofthe life ofa spirited and successful union organizer in 1930s Arkansas indicates otherwise. Myrde Lawrence, a sharecropper who joined the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union (stfu) in 1936, used her 2 Front Porch talents to bringwhites and blacks ofthe Arkansas Delta together against the economic hardship of the depdis of the Great Depression. Her success...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1-4
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.