Today in GEOG 320: What Makes the South “the South?”

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This was the 5th result when I googled “the South.” (via a listicle-type article on ’19 Reasons why Southern Florida really isn’t “the South.”‘)

This morning in my GEOG 320 class, I introduced and discussed the concept of vernacular regions. That is, large-scale places that tend to be united by an idea rather than political borders (e.g. state lines) or physical borders (e.g. rivers). Because this class meets in Eastern Tennessee (a vernacular region usually defined by the Cumberland Plateau on the West and the NC border on the East) and many students are from this area, we split up into groups and decided to make brainstormed lists of what makes the South “the South.” The responses came from individuals from various points within the South as well as people who never lived in the South until college. The associations all had positive and negative connotations, depending on who you’d ask.

We only had time to get a small sample of each group’s list, but here are a good handful of things that make the south “The South” to get the conversation going.

  • The Mason-Dixon Line
    This formulates “the South” in the classic, antebellum sense, as the British astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon drew this to settle a border dispute between the Pennsylvania and Maryland colonies in the 18th century. Unsurprisingly, this meaning of this arbitrary line have changed over the years. Most Marylanders, including one member of our class, do not consider themselves Southerners. The same goes for DC, though it does have a big Southern cultural imprint on it.
  • Football & the SEC in General
    More than one group led the conversation with Football. There are few aspects of Southern cultural life that don’t tie into the gridiron in some way. Obviously, this isn’t unique to the South, as many cities outside of the vernacular region (Columbus, OH for example) take great pride in football and their cities transform on any given Sunday (or Saturday…or in some cases, Thursdays now).
  • The “Bible Belt”
    One student mentioned that she worked at an ice cream parlor in Pigeon Forge for some time. They would usually play the local classic rock station in the background, and more than once on Sunday afternoons, an older person would come to the counter and call it “inappropriate” to be playing music (at least something so secular) on the Lord’s day. This was one of many ways that living within “the Bible Belt” (a typically derogatory term) affects people here on that micro level. Again, this is not unique to The South, though stereotypically it’s more present here.
  • Regional Pride
    An abstract idea that’s hardly unique to the South, but it’s something that Southerners of all stripes and throughout the political spectrum have in droves. This often connects with Football.
  • Cooking
    This is a huge one, especially now that Southern cuisine is so popular that it’s even popping up internationally in places like London and Paris. I loved asking people for examples of this, because we heard several fun stories from those who’ve worked in the service industry. Here are some sub-topics within the foods that make the South “the South:”

    • Sugar and Fats
    • “Meat & 3”
    • Cornbread
    • Mac & Cheese
    • BBQ
    • Soup Beans
    • Fried Chicken
    • Shrimp Boils
    • Sweet Tea
    • Biscuits and Gravy
    • French-Influenced/Creole Food (this came from a student who grew up in Southern Mississippi, where Creole culture and Cajun food is much more prominent, closer to the Gulf).
    • “Comfort food” meaning larger people (Texas, we’re looking at you).
  • Clothing
    We didn’t get into this one quite as much, but one student did bring up Chacos and Camouflage, which are both worn all over the world but seem to have a pretty big role in Southern fashion.
  • Upbringing / Economy / Farming
    Although the South has become a major industrial manufacturing center over the past few decades, ideas about “the South” still revolve around the bucolic small-town, rural agrarian community. Farming still plays a big role in Southern legend, and it also feeds into the idea of…
  • Southern Hospitality vs. the “Fast” North
    Life in the South is, by all accounts, slow, and that’s the way many people like it. Cities like New York and DC have people zipping everywhere, but in the South people tend to take it easy. This is, of course, changing with many Southern cities growing at a fast rate, largely due to people migrating in from these smaller towns, as well as big Northern cities. Many of the middle-class people moving down from the North become known as…
  • Nashville (and Atlanta) Hipsters
    This is always a funny conversation. Both of these cities, on either side of us in Knoxville (not to say there aren’t plenty of hipsters here, too) are blowing up and with it come people priced out of Bohemian lifestyles in more expensive cities. Cities like Nashville, Atlanta, Savannah, New Orleans, and more have become cradles of new life for artists from all over the U.S.
  • Less of a Melting Pot / More Racism
    Racism is the unfortunate reality of anywhere less diverse (and even many diverse places as well). But since the South has been slower to diversify than other more urbanized regions, the stereotype of the racist Southerner has persisted. Also, the region’s history of institutionalized racism doesn’t help, but like everything, it’s changing.
  • Conservative
    The past few elections have seen a shift in classically “Red” Southern states like Virginia and North Carolina. This time around, there’s a good chance that Georgia and South Carolina may even go blue, given the growth of Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston with more progressive population sets. That being said, “the South” is still a largely right-wing and conservative vernacular region, voting for more hard-line candidates and more influenced by the Baptist Church (see: the “Bible Belt.”)
  • Tourism / Guest Workers
    With the summer tourist season, the region attracts tons of guest workers from all over the world here on temporary visa programs, including Russia and Mongolia. One student actually mentioned how many French workers (some here illegally) are in Lexington working on Horse farms there. I had no clue.
  • Country Music / Bluegrass
    Though I did mention Dolly Parton as a symbol of Americana abroad, this one didn’t come up until a student stopped by on her way out of class and added it, since it was on her group’s list and they didn’t get down to it. This is a BIG one, as the music of “the South” has absolutely changed the world. Country Music’s industry is centered on Nashville (though country stars come from everywhere), and Bluegrass music (largely the province of rural Appalachia, much of which “the South” claims) has seen a major upsurge in popularity over the past decade.

It’s fun teaching cultural geography in the South because conversations like this can both teach many concepts in the subject, but can also go on for days. I’m sure that we left out plenty, too.

AAG Short Films, Boston 2017

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via the Onion A/V Club. The Lord helps those that help themselves, man.

I recently discovered that the 2017 AAG Meeting in Boston will be hosting the first annual geographic film session, called AAG Shorts. That is so cool. I’m glad to see that filmmakers have the opportunity to screen that work in an academic setting, particularly as someone who uses film, music, and even film-music to illustrate the importance of cultural geography in my classes. One of my few major regrets in life was letting film making slip out of my set of hobbies at the end of the 2000’s. At the time (before I was actively pursuing Geography as a career), some friends and I produced a handful of short films and sketches, which I’ll be going through to see if I have anything that may be relevant or appropriate for submission here. Or, if you have the time and resources to whip something together now, you have 6 weeks.

Regardless, I’ll copy and paste the call for films below the line in case anybody in the Boston area or anyone planning on attending AAG are looking for a new alternative outlet for your project.  Good luck!



New for 2017 in Boston!

Call for submissions of short films for AAG Shorts

Are you a geographer who has produced a short film – or are you thinking of using film in your research? If so then submit your film to AAG shorts launching at next years AAG meeting in Boston. Successful applicants will be invited onto a panel for a special Q&A session. A selection of the films will also be uploaded to the AAG website.

Deadline for submission 30 September 2016

How to apply:

  1. Send your film via a file transfer service such as wetransfer or myairbridge to j.jacobs@qmul.ac.uk or if a DVD by date-stamped post to: Jessica Jacobs Queen Mary University of London Mile End E1 4NS London UK
  2. Submit your film details here http://goo.gl/forms/TZ05aXxjyw1vny6p1

Sponsored by Media and Communication Geography

Terms and Conditions

  1. Films can be made specifically for AAG Shorts – or already have been produced for other reasons.
  2. Because this is the first year any year of production and length will be accepted. However the preferred length is 20 minutes or less.
  3. Preview Format DVD or online secure screener (.eg. Vimeo). You can also submit your film (H.264, mp4, avi etc) via file transfer (e.g. myairbridge) Trailers will not be accepted.
  4. Applicants need to say whether they will be registering to attend the meeting.
  5. No film may be withdrawn from the programme once it has been selected
  6. A copy of each selected film will be kept by the AAG Shorts Panel as part of the archive and for internal purposes.

‘The Casual Geographer’ Archive is Now Live

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IAQ (Infrequently Asked Questions)

What is The Casual Geographer?

The Casual Geographer was a podcast and radio show (that still exists on Facebook and Twitter). Well, it still technically is a podcast. We never firmly ended it or sent it off; I just unofficially ended the show when I left California. We produced the first episode in late 2011 and produced the final episode in April 2013, ending the run at 31 episodes in total.

Who was The Casual Geographer?

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Tyler, Bret, and Abel… refined. 2011. (Photo and Photoshopping by Dennis Hernandez)

The Casual Geographer began as a trio of myself, Bret Hartt, and Abel Santana. We met while students in the Geography department at Cal State Long Beach. They also ran the Geography Student Association in 2011-2012 (before I got suckered into taking over the presidency the following year), and I ran the idea for a podcast by them while we were chatting after a meeting. That’s the origin story, at least. It’s written in slightly better detail on the Archive page, linked from the top taskbar and here. I’ve also posted links to all the individual episode pages at the bottom of this entry.

No, I mean, who is the person in that title image?

I took that from a portrait I found online of Peter Anich, who was an Austrian cartographer in the 18th century. It’s a somewhat stylized portrait of him; there are certainly better ones available and more abundant. I just liked how this particular portrait lent itself well to the aesthetic we were going for: a double-helix of academic sophistication and thoughtful irreverence. I don’t know much about Anich himself, so our use of his likeness isn’t necessarily for or against him. Also, I have no idea where I originally found the picture.

Why the archive page?

I had two key reasons for re-posting all of these episodes. First and foremost: people were asking me about them. When I blew up my old personal website, I had nowhere to host the audio files, so most of them disappeared from the internet altogether and resided as zeros and ones in my portable hard drive (where they were useless to everyone but me). I stopped by to post an occasional episode for throwback purposes over the past couple years, but I kept on procrastinating actually getting them all back online and listenable.

Second, as I work on finishing my PhD and entering the job market, I wanted to get these out there to show how much I care about spreading the word about how important geography is, and how it continues to grow in importance. I always thought that TCG was a fun way to bring Geography to a general audience and help show how all-encompassing it is. We approached every episode with that mindset and usually succeeded in making something entertaining and educational that let our personalities come through, too.

What is next for The Casual Geographer?

In the short term, I hope to get the podcast series back on iTunes, mainly because that reaches a greater audience and network of enthusiasts for this kind of content. In the longer term, I would like to hold onto the name, at least, in case I do bring the project back to life. I would love to be able to collaborate with Bret and/or Abel again, but since we’re all at different places in our lives (figuratively and literally; I live three time zones away, Bret is working crazy hours for a quality beer distribution company, and Abel is working full-time and raising a bunch of kids). We’re all still good friends, and I’ve kept in touch with most of the guests we had on the show over our 31-episode run as well.

I think the most appropriate answer for the question, though, would be “I don’t know.” What would you like to see and hear?

EPISODE LIST

  1. The Obligatory Scattershot Pilot  (10.26.11)
  2. Diving with Dennis with geographer Dennis Hernandez (11.7.11)
  3. Intersection Songs! (11.21.11)
  4. Motorcycle Ride with anthropologist Ryan Moritz (12.6.11)
  5. Catalina Island with geographers Rob Cisneros and Julia Urcis (12.24.11)
  6. Beer! with geographer David Schwartz and brewer Steph Schwartz-Smith (2.6.12)
  7. Peru with geographers Kat Rojas and Gina Sattui (2.28.12)
  8. Geographer (the band) and the Bay Area with Geographer (3.6.12)
  9. Travel Tips (4.3.12)
  10. Easter Island with geographer Molan Choi (4.10.12)
  11. Hawai’i with geographer Mystyn Mills (4.24.12)
  12. Live from CGS aka ‘Davis Rock City’ with various guests at the California Geographic Society Meeting in Davis, CA (5.3.12)
  13. Bikes, Bikes, Bikes! (5.7.12)
  14. C-Bus a Bus! (Columbus, OH) with comedians Justin Golak, Sumukh Torgalkar, and Travis Irvine (7.25.12)
  15. What We Did on Our Summer Vacation (9.6.12)
  16. Viva Mexico (Central) with geographer Jessica Reyes and Bret’s friend Michelle (9.13.12)
  17. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (9.20.12)
  18. Chicago! with geographer David Schwartz (9.27.12)
  19. SKA with historian Jacob “The Ska Kid” Ingram (10.11.12)
  20. Human Trafficking with Crystal Sprague and Dennis Hernandez of My Refuge House (10.18.12)
  21. Death! with mortician Laura Hardin (10.25.12)
  22. St. Petersburg aka Санкт-Петербург with geographer Emily Feliciano and urban planner Ted Van Houten via phone  (11.1.12)
  23. Florida! (11.8.12)
  24. Winter Sports (11.15.12)
  25. Seattle with geographer Teresa Anderson-Sharma (12.4.12)
  26. Bret’s Journey to Japan and Korea (2.11.13)
  27. LA’s Ethnic Enclaves (2.18.13)
  28. Hip-Hop, Ya Don’t StopHip-Hop, Ya Don’t Stop with geographer Fernando Bogarin (2.25.13)
  29. The American Civil War with geographer Andy Bradford (3.4.13)
  30. Cal State Puvungna (Native America) with various guests at the annual Puvungna Pow-Wow (3.11.13)
  31. Hill Valley, CA (Imagined Geographies of Back to the Future) with Teresa Anderson-Sharma (3.25.13)

Did Alexis de Tocqueville Predict the Internet?

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Did Alexis de Tocqueville anticipate the internet in 1835?

Long answer, “no” with a “but.” Short answer, “yes” with an “if you think about the internet more conceptually and we’re talking about the metaphysical and social dynamics rather than literal mechanics, sure.”

Anyway, I was looking for some quotable quotes in the late-70’s abridged edition of Democracy in America, which I recently purchased in my favorite bookstore on the planet (Capitol Hill Books), landed on this, and thought “wow, that’s pretty much where we are today.”

The artisan readily understands these passions, for he himself partakes in them: in an aristocracy, he would seek to sell his worksmanship at a high price to the few; he now conceives that the more expeditious way of getting rich is to sell them at a low price to all (p. 170).
In America, parties do not write books to combat each other’s opinions, but pamphlets, which are circulated for a day with incredible rapidity, and then expire.
In the midst of all these obscure productions of the human brain appear the more remarkable works of a small number of authors, whose names are, or ought to be, known to Europeans (p. 173).
Who said we ever needed the internet to have internet culture?
Seriously, if you’re ever in DC, visit Capitol Hill Books before doing anything else at all. Well, maybe get hydrated first because it’s a sauna there, but then visit this store. It will make you love books even more than you already thought you did, and the gentrification/development going on in Eastern Market is making me worried, and all those museums and monuments up the street aren’t going anywhere.

Was this your Dissertated Summer? (Paris 1988 & Paris 1926)

One of the things that nobody warned me about as I’ve slid down the slippery slope into dissertation mode has been the creeping guilt. I know everyone’s dissertation experience is different and I wouldn’t expect everyone to share my exact academic anxieties (everyone should harbor their own; it’s perfectly natural). But I’ve reached a point where, whenever I’m doing anything unrelated to my dissertation (academic, professional, or recreational/completely disconnected), I feel this benign (yet still jarring) guilt that I’m losing ground on my monolithic self-assigned finish line. I know my whole life can’t be reading and writing for the dissertation, because that would be insane. But concurrently, I’d be in a bad position if my own conscience wasn’t nudging me back toward my mostly-digital pile of notes and drafts.

Please don’t take this rare moment of vulnerability as a caveat about my progress (or any discouragement for potential employers, *wink*). I’m definitely going to finish it, and in all likelihood on schedule. I’m not writing this to elicit sympathy or cast doubt on myself. I still thank myself disproportionately often that I walked away from my 9-to-6 life in DC to dive into academia. I still occasionally stop and think… “wow, I get to write this for a dissertation. Rad.” The pressure of the dissertation isn’t even a guarded secret among academics; a member of a seminal 90’s band (a great drummer and label manager but hardly the scholastic type) even shouted friendly words of encouragement at me when after his new band’s show in SF when he found out what I did.

I have three primary reasons for wanting to bring this up, all increasingly relevant to what I’ll be sharing here.

  1. I want to impart what little wisdom I’ve accumulated from the writing process thus far to anyone reading this who may be thinking about pursuing a PhD. Most of those people probably already have their minds made up but are just stopping by on their daily blogroll (thanks!)
  2. This is why I haven’t written anything on here for almost a month. I know I’ve had similar gaps before, but in this case, I’m honestly too preoccupied with reading, notating, and writing, and that aforementioned guilt has kept me from trying to produce unrelated material for my site. I’m also pretty subdued about works in progress, so I’m loathe to share much material about my dissertation, which (again) composes a vast majority of my recent productivity. I’ll relax this a bit tonight, though, because…
  3. The ostensibly last-minute mad-dash for literature and source material has yielded a few things in the last 48 hours that I couldn’t keep to myself.

A wise(au) man once said “Don’t plan too much, it may not come out right.” One piece of advice I’d gotten ages ago from a colleague was to avoid handicapping myself by doing anything other than expecting the unexpected when it came to research, especially given any umbrella as wide as a dissertation’s. I do have my proposal to reference whenever I forget, but I could never rewind my brain to whatever mode it was in when I first landed on my topic. The qualitative researcher is no different than their subject(s)- fluid and subject to an endless stream of external and internal influences. It’s just as important to keep as open of a mind in qualitative research as anywhere in life. This applies equally when digging through cluttered archives as accumulating the most iconoclastic of oral histories from folks in another country (both of which I’ve done over the past year).

Two research practices that have yielded mouth-nearly-agape results-level material for me in the past 48 hours range from superbly post(?)-modern (YouTube) to the downright old-fashioned (library stacks).

PARIS, 1988
From where I sit, not a whole lot of scholarship has been done on how useful YouTube can be in qualitative research, at least within geography. Some disparate articles using YouTube have appeared over the last decade (Longhurst 2009, Garrett 2011, Carter 2015), but streaming and participatory video is hardly even a generation-old phenomenon. Video recording has become more ubiquitous through smart phones, but that doesn’t mean a treasure trove of audio-visual research material hasn’t been digitized and uploaded by benevolent users all over the internet. A full year after gathering stories about the first two Fugazi shows in Paris (November 1988 and December 1989), I discovered that not only were they both filmed with excellent sound for the VHS era, but they are also now online, thanks to Philippe Roger.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Fugazi’s music, this is a fascinating watch. You can see the violence breaking out among this snapshot of Paris’ late-80’s punks scene. Watch how annoyed (and even scared) the band gets when people won’t stop stagediving and otherwise disrupting them, but they still take it like true professionals and unleash their set of early-era highlights. Guy Piciotto (whose near-fluent French he speaks here) wasn’t even playing the guitar in the first show, embedded here below. You can check out the second one, from 1990, here. For those of you who were wondering what the essence of my dissertation was, and were looking for a response to be in video form:


PARIS, 1926
Yesterday, I decided to go the library to dig up a 1984 edition of Pierre Bourdieu’s  Distinction. Normally, I just use the handy delivery service that UTK offers to save time, but the other day, I decided to give my legs and brain much-needed stretches and walked over there. I also needed to return a couple books to a different campus library, but that’s besides the point. Right before a seismic monsoon landed on campus, I ducked into the main library and wandered up to the third floor. The Bourdieu book was nowhere to be found. The staff couldn’t locate it either. I know how many books just disappear or slip under the radar within library systems every year, but at the time, it was a little frustrating. I did, however, grab a few books on a whim that have already jumped to the top of my reading list and begun to influence my writing. These included Utopia Deferred, a series of essays by the always delightful leftist quote-machine Jean Baudrillard. I also grabbed French Cultural Studies, a 1995 collection edited by Jill Forbes and Michael Kelly. I’m not sure how prominently this book will figure into my work, but I’m more confused as to why it hadn’t occurred to me yet to dig into French Cultural Studies as a resource. Last but not least (actually, least-least) was Nancy L. Green’s exhaustively-researched The Other Americans in Paris (2014), an exhaustively-researched history of the American community in Paris, from the gold- and culture-digging elites down to the petty criminals who escaped Uncle Sam’s grasp in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On Page 1, Green clearly lays out her mission statement:

There is an untold tale of Americans in the City of Light, a history of expatriation that parallels the story of those who came to France for creative inspiration. But with an important twist. While many Americans came to France in search of (European) civilization, many more came to disseminate the American version of it. Even as the writers and artists of the well-known “Lost Generation” expressed angst over modernity and America’s role in it, other Americans overseas were participating in the debate over modernity in another way: by selling it or trying to.

The cultural and sub-cultural exchanges between the US and France, while I’m focusing on the past four decades, have been prominent for the entire lifespan of both Republics. These thoughts had been crossing my mind for the whole lifespan of my project, but until I grabbed Green’s book on a whim, I hadn’t really thought much about how much interwar American expats and tourists told us about the societies’ love-hate relationship. Did you know there was a vicious anti-American demonstration on Grands Boulevards almost exactly 90 years ago this week? Did you know hundreds of angry locals gathered to take out their frustrations on a cluster of the 200,000 American tourists in town that summer? Well, it happened (see Green, p. 204).

What I’m trying to say is, these are the things that have distracted me from this blog this summer, and take an hour a week to wander around your library’s stacks. Even if they don’t have the book you’re looking for, it can and will push/pull your research in different and fun directions.

Back to writing….

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Carter, Perry. “3 Virtual ethnography.” Social memory and heritage tourism methodologies 49 (2015): 48.
Garrett, Bradley L. “Videographic Geographies: Using Digital Video for Geographic Research.” Progress in Human Geography 35, no. 4 (2011): 521-41.
Green, Nancy L. The Other Americans in Paris: Businessmen, Countesses, Wayward Youth, 1880-1941.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Longhurst, Robyn. “YouTube: a new space for birth?” Feminist Review 93, no. 1 (2009): 46-63.

EDITORIAL: What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege

One of the most important challenges that cultural geographers have taken on has been to help people realize how privilege works, especially since so many (still, somehow) live in blissful ignorance of it. Here are ten highly personal examples from Lori Hutchinson. – Tyler

GOOD BLACK NEWS

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chiefby Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief

Yesterday I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend, asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism.  I feel compelled not only to publish his query but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a handful of folks on Facebook.

Here’s his post:

“To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “White Privilege” of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/ nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune…

View original post 2,636 more words

June 16

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Sometimes with people, I fake I’ve seen movies, to round off the edges.
Subset of history, I lose my identity, start bummin’ at parties…
(“Life as a Rehearsal,” 1982)

Happy Bloomsday, aka International Minutemen Day. The former’s a tribute to the 20th century’s greatest epic hero, and the latter is an unofficial tribute to the 20th century’s greatest band.

Here is a spiel I wrote about the Minutemen around this time a couple years ago.

Here is San Pedro, their hometown (and one of my favorite places in the world), in the news very recently.

Here is a book that my friend Mike Fournier wrote about the Minutemen some years back.

Here is an (unsuccessful) attempt my friends and I made to recreate the “Double Nickels on the Dime” cover during a visit to Pedro in April.

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And last, here is some validation for you all, in the spirit of the unofficial holiday. Be good to each other, and  just as importantly, let yourselves be heard.