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1 Introduction michele grigsby coffey and jodi skipper This book began with conversations in a living room in Oxford, Mississippi, in 2011. As a historian and an anthropologist who both study the South, we were at roughly the same place in our academic careers. We had each worked outside of and within the academy in multiple southern states and were each beginning our first year as faculty at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. We had many conversations about our per‑ sonal academic projects, as well as broader political, social, cultural, and eco‑ nomic issues impacting the region we choose to study. Although we are both out­ spoken and anticipated, perhaps welcomed, hotly contested disputes, we were surprised to discover that the most spirited moments in our energizing debates did not stem from differences in opinion but were instead rooted in disciplinary differences, in the basic ways in which we framed and verbal‑ ized our work. For example, we both prioritized community engagement as one of our academic goals, yet we spent a great deal of time arguing about whether we should identify ourselves as activist-­ scholars, public scholars, or perhaps something else entirely. We found through our conflicts on the matter that such determinations were not solely personal decisions but were influenced by what we perceived as acceptable in each of our fields or even individual departments. In some cases, the labeling of oneself as an activist might be applauded; in others such a label could mean setting oneself apart.1 Such conversations are obviously one of the privileges of academia, yet we could not trivialize them as unimportant. They were manifestations of what ultimately proved to be larger, often political, vocabulary differences that would emerge especially when we engaged the theoretical debates tak‑ ing place not only in our disciplines but more importantly in what we came to know as southern studies. After all, we were not just a historian and an anthropologist. We also had joint appointments in the Center for the Study of Southern Culture (cssc) and therefore should arguably be engaging a shared literature with a reasonably clear understanding of other disciplinary 2 coffey and skipper engagements in southern studies. However, we quickly realized, as scholars who study the South, that our incapacity to speak across our home disciplines impeded our ability to collaborate with maximum benefit. We began to won‑ der how such issues might be reflected in larger transdisciplinary dialogues around southern studies research. Defining southern studies is challenging for there is no one definition that suffices in all fields or circumstances. Indeed, some will argue that such an exercise will inevitably be a moot one, as such a conceptual framework is as fluid as the region it proposes to investigate. Scholars in history, literature, and, to a lesser extent, other disciplines have often discussed the relation‑ ships between the historical, social, and cultural forces that have helped to shape the U.S. South. However, most of these debates have taken place within specific academic disciplines, with few attempts to cross-­ engage. Recent an‑ thologies explicitly attempting to consider humanities and social science approaches connect scholars through particular lenses of study. Examples include Jennifer Jansen Wallach’s Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama (2015); William Reyn‑ olds’s Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader (2014); Khyati Y. Joshi and Jigna Desai’s Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South (2013); John T. Edge, Elizabeth Englehardt, and Ted Ownby’s The Larder: Food Studies ­ Methods from the American South (2013); Brian Ward, Martyn Bone, and William Link’s The American South and the Atlantic World (2013); and Jessica Adams, Michael P. Bibler, and Cécile Accilien’s Just Below South: Intercultural Performance in the Caribbean and the U.S. South (2007).2 We see these more anthologies as necessary and positive steps toward more multidisciplinary analyses of specific topics in the field of southern studies.3 However, we are not acting in response to those works. We are more specifically responding to John Lowe’s call for a “firm interdisciplinary grounding” in southern studies as expressed in Bridging Southern Cultures: An Interdisciplinary Approach (2005). We are particularly attracted by Lowe’s appeal to “fertiliz[e] interchange with colleagues from other disciplines” to most effectively “explore new questions and issues.”4 Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Explorations of a U.S. Region answers that call, yet, for us, bridging southern...


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