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

  • Front Porch
  • Harry Watson, editor emeritus

Click for larger view
View full resolution

From Kate Medley's photo series "Gas Station South" (p. 36).

Santos Calderon with Antony and Julian, The Heritage Grill, Durham, North Carolina.

[End Page 1]

this issue carries Southern Cultures through its twenty-fifth year and past our four anniversary issues: Backward/Forward, Inside/Outside, Left/Right, and Here/Away. We hope our readers have enjoyed these special numbers as much as we have. As always, we thank the authors who gave us an embarrassment of riches to choose from and our sharp, creative guest editors: Charles Reagan Wilson, William Sturkey, Joseph Crespino, and Karida Brown. We follow up with yet another special issue, this one on the Documentary Moment, guest edited by Tom Rankin with his customary grace and skill.

As anniversaries will do, this year has prompted a round of reflections about past, present, and future. Among these, it has gradually sunk in that our little fling of 1993 has passed a test of longevity. One reason must be that rumors of the South's death are like Mark Twain's quip about his own obituary: greatly exaggerated. Despite all its changes, the South still exists as a distinctive American space, and people still want to think about it, talk about it, write about it, read about it. As our founder John Shelton Reed observed long ago, the South is where you find the largest number of businesses with "Southern" or "Dixie" in their names; it was true in 1974 and it still is. The South is also the US region where you find the most grits consumption, the greatest concentrations of African Americans, the highest incidence of strokes and lung cancer, and the greatest amount of red dirt. And the South must and is wrestling with its Confederate past as no other region ever will. The list goes on, but the point stands: the South still exists and its cultures still resonate in the modern world. People want to study the region's differences and continuities, its joys, tragedies, and outrages, to affirm the significance of place in a displaced world, and to keep recreating a US South that still looks like itself—just better. Southern Cultures was lucky to find a community of readers and writers who had interesting things to say about this brutal, joyful, intensely human region and wanted to share them with a puzzled world. Though Mama 'n' them taught us not to brag, we're proud to have worked in that vineyard for twenty-five years, and we aim to keep it up.1

Certainly, this result was not predicted or foreordained twenty-five years ago, when sociologist John Shelton Reed, director of unc's Institute for Social Science Research, called a few of us into his office to discuss a crazy idea that had sailed over his transom. A publisher of specialized journals had asked him to create one about the South. The proposition included several role models; the one I remember involved catfish farming, and there may have been another one about golf course management. None of them sounded terribly exciting, at least to us. There was also some kind of deal-breaker that I don't recall, but the offer had got John to thinking. Why couldn't we start up something like that ourselves, with no catches or catfish lines attached? John thought we could model it on The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, recently published by unc Press and edited by our good friends Charles Reagan Wilson and Bill Ferris of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi (the same [End Page 2] C. R. W. who guest-edited Backward/Forward). The point would be to write about culture, not exclusively history, society, politics, or economics, because John thought that what people thought, felt, believed, and acted on tied the South together. He also wanted to reach general readers as well as academics, and believed the Encyclopedia had shown us how to do that.

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Illustrations by Nate Beaty.

When John finished, we looked around nervously. Optimists might have remembered Mickey Rooney...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1-6
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.