A Geographical Interlude

Let's begin with defining our terms:

Next, some aspects of the legal system:

And finally, spycraft:


Grim said...

1) Calli had the better initial map.

2) Dude is right: no one becomes Southern by moving south. Marriage and lifelong commitment only partially convey.

3) Parts of Florida and Texas are culturally Southern, but they’re both also their own thing.

Tom said...

So, grits, sweet tea, pickup trucks, saying hello to strangers, manners (ma'am) ...

I loved the phone call to Jimmy's Egg in Oklahoma. I've eaten grits at the one they called, although it's been a few years. I don't get by there often. They have pretty good omelets.

It was interesting that Calli broke states up -- This part is, that part isn't. Her differentiation in Texas, that the western half has more of a Western culture, was interesting. I wonder if that was her original reason for only claiming SE Oklahoma. Norman is right in the middle; the western half of Oklahoma could just be Western. I dunno; don't get out there much.

I guess I hadn't thought about it before, but Western culture is different than Southern culture, though there was some influence. A lot of immigrants to the West came from the South after the Civil War.

I don't know why, but I've always thought of W. Va. as Southern. I couldn't tell you why, though, except maybe from history I think of Virginia as Southern, and they were one state.

Christopher B said...

There's similar debate over what constitutes the 'Middle West'. I'm partial to the definition that it is west of the Appalachians, east of the Missouri River, and north of the Ohio River, roughly the old Northwest Territory. Some people will put Ohio and even Michigan in the East, and move the Dakotas and Nebraska from the High Plains.

Culturally, I think of it as states that were mapped and settled under the Homestead Acts, have a primarily corn-based agriculture, an economy biased to industry rather than services or entertainment, and an immigrant population that mostly came from continental Europe rather the British Isles.

Tom said...

Interesting. That's a pretty clear definition.

Oklahoma is odd in that, depending on what you're talking about, it can be Southern, Western, Mid-Western, or Southwestern. However, it makes a bit more sense if we ignore state boundaries and just look at regions, with this part of OK in one region, that part in another, etc.

Narr said...

John Shelton Reed had one of the best approaches to Southernness--map the usage of "Southern" in business and corporate names.

I reviewed a book about Confederate veterans who lived to old age, and was surprised--though I shouldn't have been--that so many of them died in Southern California. IIRC one old Rebel at least was a security guard at one of the big Hollywood studios as late as the 1920s.

South definitely shades into West in Texas and OK. West Virginia is Southern if East Tennessee is--the main difference is that WV succeeded in seceding, while the Unionists of East Tennessee did not.

Cousin Eddie

Grim said...

I'm sympathetic to ignoring state boundaries as well. As per my Appalachia project, the North Georgia mountains fit in well with East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, West Virginia, and western Virginia. Really you could go all the way up to the mountainous regions of New York, but keeping it Southern makes sense to me.

Grim said...

Also, West Virginia is definitely the South. It left Virginia over the issue of slavery, but East Tennessee was anti-slavery too (as was North Georgia -- witness "Union County"). Pull off at a truck stop in WV on I-77 and you'll find Confederate flag hats for sale, though, and probably grits as well.

Northern Virginia doesn't have sweet tea, I discovered when I lived there. You couldn't get it anywhere except the Texas Roadhouse.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

By these definitions Austin, Nashville, and Atlanta are not southern. Southerners might nod and say "Well, we generally agree with that," but it starts to make the whole exercise suspect. It's just ringing the chimes of cultural touchpoints, like a lot of Country music does. Defining a True Anything is suspect. I used to joke that the real Mason-Dixon line ran from Hartford to Ft Wayne, Manhattan exempted. And as for True Yankees, I don't even include Massachusetts.

Sure it's all supposed to be just good fun, but Southerners seem to care about this a lot, and I think it holds them back. The number of shared points grows ever-smaller but each thus acquires greater credibility.

Grim said...

Holds them back from what?

Christopher B said...

State boundaries do tend to confuse things when they don't match up with natural regional borders.

I don't like the idea that great cities can somehow evolve beyond regional color. That color gives each city its particular flavor. New York isn't Chicago isn't Atlanta isn't Los Angeles. I think this view reflects the excessive parochialism that AVI deplores.

I still think the exercise has some merit beyond good-natured ribbing. I was going to remark on Mike K's Chicago Boyz post about Single Payer that one thing a 'United States National Health Service' would find extremely challenging is the widely varying cost structures among regions. I think this is even an issue with the NHS in Britain. The recognition that regional cultural variation exists and can be fundamental to people's life experience yet co-exists with a recognition of an American identity as well as a multitude of other associations is something that we don't want to lose. The monochromatic spectrum of CRT reasoning is one of its major failures.

Narr said...

What Grim said: holds us back from what?

Just to muddy the identity waters some more, take the case of Kentucky, which didn't join the CSA until after the war; and some Appalachian Southern whites who migrated to the North in the 1940s and later were surprised that the Yankees considered them to be from Rebel stock.

And for that matter, I've read letters from a US serviceman in the FRG about
1960 describing violence on base between Northern soldiers and Southern ones--and both sides racially integrated.

I've adopted a friend's approach-- "am I/are you a Southerner?" If the answer is a prompt yes, then yes.

There's an economist's ideal 38-state USA from as far back as the 1970s--
the map is easily found, and interesting.

Cousin Eddie

Tom said...

AVI, I think part of reason for this question of Southern identity is that many other cultural groups in the US insist that Southerners must be identified. This seems to be because they need to define themselves against someone, whether in the Civil War "we were right / they were wrong" sense, or to have someone to blame for racism, or even commonly in an intellectual sense where Southerners seem to be a safe target to look down on for being anti-intellectual (which itself is a carryover from the antebellum days -- many pre-Civil War Yankees certainly believed Southerners were intellectually inferior).

It's in entertainment as well: If an American bad guy is going to have an identifiable accent, it will almost certainly be a Southern accent.

Even in a show like Justified, where the protagonist and antagonist both come from the same community in Kentucky and both have a form of Southern accent, the antagonist's accent is much stronger, much more identifiably Southern.

Tom said...

By these definitions Austin, Nashville, and Atlanta are not southern.

Yes, that came up at the end of the video when Matt said he would exclude Atlanta and that Nashville was borderline. Calli was aghast, though.

But urban areas do have different cultures than the rural areas that surround their suburbs, so to me it's not that strange.

Tom said...

AVI, like this:


Aggie said...

Casual, inexpensive high-speed transport and re-location has made regional context less relevant now than it once was, I think. We're much more dismissive of roots now, as a people. I remember sitting wells in East Texas 40 years ago, piney woods and prison farm country, deep-water Baptists and Church of Christ dominating. They still had boarding houses then, and they offered family-style dining, everybody around the same table. I stayed at quite a few.

East Texas was very Deep South and a good bit of it still is, similar to Louisiana north of I-10 - some of it weirdly Faulknerian. But places like the big cities: Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio - a good bit of the original flavor has been boiled out with the influx from out-of-state and also out-of-country. Easy to spot, if you go by political metrics.

Aggie said...

Also, I lived in mid-northern Florida in the late 70's, before the huge developments like Palm Coast hit the eastern seaboard (north of Daytona). The old saying in Florida was, 'the further north you go, the further south you are" was very true; Highly redneck, pretty rural, Deep South all the way. Trailer parks and biker bars in the developed areas. It looks like one of them has noticed this.

Narr said...

I should have mentioned that I enjoyed the selections.

The South is culturally distinct because the South's history is distinct, and the history is distinct because the culture was distinct . . .

Southerners are often accused of being obsessed with refighting the Woah; I've concluded that that's one way for some non-Southerners to refight it.

Cousin Eddie

Grim said...

That last one reminds me of my mom. She couldn't go anywhere without three hours of conversations. She must have known everyone in town, and their parents, and their kids.

RonF said...

I own both a Prius and a pick-up truck - a 2005 Chevy Silverado with a full-length bed.

RonF said...

I should also note that I was born a Yankee and have lived north of the Mason-Dixon line all my life and I was astonished that Missouri would not be considered a Southern State.