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xiii Foreword Scholars, writers, and poets have spilt gallons of ink musing about the “sense of place” that pervades the American South. This southern sense of place, alas, is more often asserted than demonstrated. A skeptic might point out that the people of Maine, New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and every other region in the United States purportedly also have powerful attachments to place. So when we refer to a southern sense of place, what exactly do we have in mind? What distinguishes southerners’ attachment to their place? For many commentators, a sense of place is virtually innate and seemingly essential, as though it were in the blood at birth of those lucky enough to possess it. Paul Greenberg, a conservative columnist and editorialist in Arkansas, has written that sense of place has to do with “identity, with roots sunk deep not just in the land but in the language and look and feel, and maybe death, of a place. . . . Someone with a sense of place, all-informing and always present, . . . [is] anchored, secure, steady no matter which way the wind blows. In place. He may move, but he will not be moved.” But this notion of being rooted, anchored, cemented in a place and in a community drastically simplifies the lived experience of place. Douglas A. Boyd’s Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community offers a much more compelling and sensitive meditation on place and its meaning(s). This book is a quietly ambitious work that, among other things, eloquently traces the ways that the residents of a community define their place and their relationship to it. While the book’s subject is an obscure neighborhood in a small Kentucky city, it speaks to much more than local history. It provides a model of how we—historians, folklorists, local activists, geographers , residents—can conscientiously reconstruct and appreciate the meaning of place, even a place that has been physically erased from the landscape. One of the pleasures of this book is its cumulative creativity. After reading the first few pages, I thought I might be about to settle xiv Foreword into a conventional oral history of urban renewal. (There is a small, poignant, but now familiar body of work that retells the tragic consequences of the wholesale destruction of communities in the name of urban renewal.) But Crawfish Bottom offers much more than that. Then I thought it might be a history of a colorful and vanished neighborhood. It is certainly that, but the book does many other things as well. And it does them with verve. It is the rare multidisciplinary work that is more than a pastiche of ideas and approaches drawn from various fields of scholarship. Crawfish Bottom seamlessly weaves together history, folklore, and geography into an engaging, trenchant, and substantive whole. The book’s insights will be of interest to anyone who is intrigued by the way a sense of community emerges and evolves over time. While providing a fascinating account of the shifting boundaries of Crawfish Bottom, Boyd makes the abstraction of the “social construction of place” come alive. He explains how the absence of defined boundaries to the neighborhood meant that residents of Frankfort could and did set the boundaries according to their diverse notions of class, race, and community. When they did so, the residents revealed the complex and even contradictory ways in which they fashioned and sustained their sense of place. In short, Boyd lays bare the sinews of community identity to which many scholars allude, but seldom excavate as fully or with comparable care. It is a testament to Boyd’s accomplishment that readers of Crawfish Bottom, who are most likely far removed in place and time from this little-known community, will develop a sense of—and an attachment to—a place that is now gone. By making this connection possible, Boyd reminds us of novelist William Faulkner’s wise observation that a gifted observer can tease deep and enduring truths from a “little postage stamp of native soil.” W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory ...


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