Guten Tag, Y'all: Globalization and the South Carolina Piedmont, 1950-2000

Guten Tag, Y'all: Globalization and the South Carolina Piedmont, 1950-2000

Guten Tag, Y'all: Globalization and the South Carolina Piedmont, 1950-2000

Guten Tag, Y'all: Globalization and the South Carolina Piedmont, 1950-2000

Excerpt

The first, vague idea for this book emerged in July 1991 on my first trip to the United States. While working in my native Finland as a young journalist, I had decided to spend my summer vacation touring the American South. The idea behind the trip was unabashedly romantic, shaped by my long-standing fascination with southern history and culture. I visited such storied places as Memphis and Nashville, Columbia and Atlanta, as well as many smaller towns, determined to find a region that would correspond with the idea of the South that I had soaked up as a teenager by reading Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Richard Wright and by listening to Delta blues, Memphis soul, and old rock ’n’ roll.

I did find the romantic gothic South I was looking for. Simultaneously, however, I discovered another, equally fascinating version of the region. While driving through the South Carolina Piedmont with my traveling companion, I saw a thoroughly industrialized and even cosmopolitan slice of the South. Through the windshield of our rental car I spotted factories bearing familiar names—Hoechst, Michelin, Sulzer—dotting the roadsides of Interstate 85. After taking an exit ramp and venturing into the GreenvilleSpartanburg area, I heard people speaking German with an unmistakable Swiss dialect at a local convenience store. A French flag was flying atop the porch of one house in a nearby neighborhood.

I cannot remember what I thought about this surprising pocket of cosmopolitanism in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Perhaps I was lamenting the unorthodox presence of these multinationals in the South and the corrupting, homogenizing power of European corporate capitalism. Or perhaps I was a bit pleased, taken by some exaggerated notions of a Europeansouthern bond so visible in this region. Despite these obvious outward signs of the South’s transformation, even the South Carolina Piedmont still felt very southern. It radiated the same sense of place and culture I had recognized in other small and midsize towns I had visited earlier in my trip.

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