Research on the Political Geography of the South, 1980-2005

By Webster, Gerald R.; Bowman, Jerrod et al. | Southeastern Geographer, May 2007 | Go to article overview
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Research on the Political Geography of the South, 1980-2005

Webster, Gerald R., Bowman, Jerrod, Mcgowin, Daniel, Robinson, Heath, Southeastern Geographer

The American South has undergone tremendous change in the past quarter century. No where is this change more apparent than on the region's political landscape. Today minority voters are participating at all levels in the South's political processes. The region has also continued its movement from the Democratic to Republican parties. Have these changes received adequate attention in the political geography literature? This paper attempts to identify all articles, book chapters and books on the political geography of the South published in the past quarter century. It finds that there has been a significant increase in the rate of published work on the region's changing political landscape, and that these efforts have appeared in a wide array of outlets. The paper concludes by identifying areas in which additional work would be helpful to fully understanding the South's political landscape.

KEY WORDS: political geography, American South


The American South has witnessed dramatic demographic, social, economic, and political change during the past quarter century. In demographic terms, the region has experienced substantial population change due to the in-migration of Hispanics and Asians, most particularly to states such as North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Socially the region has been the scene of an increased aggressiveness by religious leaders and bodies over issues such as abortion, gay and lesbian rights, and the secular character of the public schools. The traditional issue of race was recently thrust back into the regional and national spotlight due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, and the dramatic film footage of poor and largely African American families trapped at the Louisiana Superdome. Economically the region has simultaneously witnessed an out-migration of thousands of low-skill and low-wage jobs including those associated with textiles along with smaller but significant increases in more highly skilled employment as corporations such as Mercedes, Hyundai and Boeing have moved manufacturing plants to the region.

Arguably no aspect of life in the South has experienced more change than those evident on its political landscape. With very few exceptions, nearly every state in the region is now a consistent supporter of the Republican Party in presidential elections. The region's congressional delegations have increasingly become part of the Republican majority in both the House and the Senate, with much of the GOP's leadership hailing from the South. The majority of remaining Democratic House members from the South represent majority African American districts. At the state level, Republicans occupy a majority of the region's governorships, and dominate an increasing number of state legislatures. In those few states in which Democrats continue to dominate the legislature, such as Alabama, their majorities are comprised of potentially volatile coalitions of moderate to conservative white, and liberal to moderate African American legislators which are subject to schisms on a host of issues from public school funding to the focus of economic development efforts.


The purpose of this paper is to provide a status report on published research on the political geography of the South during the past quarter century. Have political geographers responded in their research agendas to the tremendous political changes experienced in the region? If so, what topics have received attention and which need added focus? What are the principal outlets for their work? And who are the primary contributors to the literature on the political geography of the South? We provide an overview of what has been done on the political geography of the region since 1980, and attempt to provide suggestions for topics that have received insufficient attention by geographers generally, and political geographers in particular.


A central purpose of this effort was to identify all published work pertaining to the political geography of the South from 1980 to the present.

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