Identity Dixie – Why is there a “South”? What is this place we call the South? What makes it different from other parts of the United States?
Many years ago, the Alabama writer Clarence Cason wrote that the South was “self-conscious enough and sufficiently insulated to be thought of as a separate province.” Echoing the same theme, W.J. Cash called the South, “not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it.” In his book The American Dilemma, the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal agreed that the South was “a nation within a nation.” The historian Ulrich B. Phillips once quipped about a ferryman calling the north bank of the Ohio River “the American shore.”
Surely, there is something to this notion that the South is a separate and distinct place, and that the Southerners who live here are a separate distinct people, unlike other Americans in some critical way. Southern writers, political theorists and historians have been defining the South for generations. The Southern people are studied by academics both at home and abroad more intensely than ever before. Among other universities, the University of Mississippi even offers a master’s degree in the subject.
I’m going to argue here that the land made the people, and the people made the land. The South is a bioregion. Think of the South as being like a bottle of fine aged wine. The bottle provides the shape while the contents provide the taste…