Revisiting "The South" and "Dixie": Delineating Vernacular Regions Using GIS

Article excerpt

John Shelton Reed's maps of the South and Dixie in 1970s and 1980s indicated the shrinking boundaries of these two vernacular regions. This study revisits the South and Dixie. Using electronic telephone directories, this study collected all business names with "Southern" and "Dixie" in all the cities in the US. A univariate local indicator of spatial association (LISA) analysis was used to identify the clusters of high and low values of normalized values of the terms. These analyses helped identify the current core regions of Dixie land and the South. The results indicate that "the South" and "Dixie" boundary erosion is noticeable. The study identified a previously unnoticed island of "Dixie" in Utah. Southern and Dixie identities are stronger in non-metropolitan counties compared to metropolitan and micropolitan counties. Southern and Dixie identities are eroding gradually: while the erosion of southern identity is very slow, the erosion of Dixie identity seems to be faster. Overall, it may be more appropriate to refer "Dixieland" as "Dixie islands" today, but the South is still the South.

KEY WORDS: Southern, Dixie, LISA, GIS, Vernacular Regions

Los mapas del Sur y Dixie en los 70s y 80s de John Shelton Reed indicaron una reduccion en los limites de esas dos regiones autoctonas. Este analisis estudia al Sur y Dixie. Usando directorios telefonicos electronicos, este estudio recopila los hombres de negocios con "Southern" y "Dixie" en todas las ciudades de Los Estados Unidos. Un analisis univariable LISA (Indicador Local de Asociacion Espacial) rue usado para identificar los con glomerados de valores altos y bajos de los valores normalizados de los terminos. Este analisis ayudo a identificar boy las regiones de Dixie Land y el Sur. Los resultados indican que la erosion de los limites del "Sur" y "Dixie" es notable. El estudio identifico en Utah una "Isla de Dixie" que no habia sido notada anteriormente. Las identidades de Southern y Dixie son mas fuertes en los condados no-metropolitanos que en los condados metropolitanos y micropolitanos. Las identidades de Southern y Dixie se estan deteriorando gradualmente; mientras que el deterioro de las identidades del sur es bastante lento, el deterioro de Dixie parece ser rods rapido. En general, seria mas apropiado referirse boy a "Dixieland" como "Islas Dixie", pero el Sur todavia es el Sur.


Geographers' natural penchant for studying boundaries and borders includes the study of boundaries of vernacular regions. According to Jordan (1978), vernacular regions are perceived to exist by their inhabitants and other members of the population. Vernacular regions are neither created by governments or corporations, nor are they an intellectual creation of the professional geographer; these are just mental maps of the people (Schwartzberg 1967; Zelinsky 1980; Shortridge 1987). A people's perception about the boundaries of their homeland and vernacular region does not always match formal boundaries recognized by the state. Moreover, borders between different vernacular regions tend to be indistinct, which can result in geopolitical conflicts or the growth of regionalism and nationalism (Zelinsky 1980; Morgan & Brinkman 1995), such as the geopolitical conflicts in Kurdistan, Israel/Palestine, Chechnya and Georgia. However, not all vernacular regions create geopolitical conflicts: most are just cultural identities that people attach to places for various reasons. These vernacular regions are the results of the sense of place developed by a community. A sense of place develops gradually and unconsciously from inhabiting an area over time, becoming familiar with its physical properties and accruing history within its confines (Ryden 1993, p 38). As Yi-Fu Tuan (1977) pointed out, if people saw their world constantly in flux, they would not be able to develop any sense of place (Shortridge 1987). Demographic shifts caused by migration patterns, change in the economic activities, etc. …