Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

The Work of Southering: "Southern Justice" and the Moral Landscape of Uneven Racism

Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

The Work of Southering: "Southern Justice" and the Moral Landscape of Uneven Racism

Article excerpt

This article seeks to stimulate a discussion about the ways in which scholars may reproduce the identity discourse of internal orientalism (here called "southering") and the moral landscape of uneven racism in the process of critiquing injustice in the southeastern states. It points to the problems with making explicit and unsubstantiated comparisons on issues such as racism between the "South" and "North" and highlights discursive forms that risk triggering reader interpretations (such as the idea of "Southern distinctiveness") that may be inconsistent with the intentions of the author. It ends by considering a few strategies for minimizing the communication of unintended messages, including more precision with regard to temporal and spatial boundaries, using a form of the "contrapuntal method" where generalizations about "the South" are accompanied by statements describing the status of the problem in question in the rest of the country, employing a materialist definition of racism as well as a dialectical analysis that focuses on process and relation.

Resumen: Este articulo pretende estimular una discusion sobre la manera en que los academicos pueden reproducir el discurso de identidad del orientalismo interno (aqui se refiere al sureno) y el paisaje moral del racismo desigual en el proceso de critica de la injusticia en los estados del sureste. Senala los problemas de hacer comparaciones explicitas y sin fundamento en temas como el racismo entre el "Sur" y el "Norte" y destaca las formas discursivas que arriesgan el desencadenamiento de interpretaciones de lectores (como la idea de "cardcter distintivo del Sur") que puede ser incompatible con Las intenciones del autor. El estudio termina considerando algunas estrategias para minimizar la comunicacion de mensajes no deseados, incluyendo una mayor precision con respecto a los limites temporales y espaciales, usando una forma del "metodo contrapunto" donde las generalizaciones sobre "el Sur" van acompanadas de declaraciones que describen el estado del problema en cuestion en el resto del pais, empleando una definicion materialista del racismo, asi como un analisis dialectico que se centra en el proceso y la relacion.

KEY WORDS: internal orientalism, justice, U.S. South, racism, discourse

PALABRAS CLAVE: orientalismo interno, justicia, Estados Unidos del Sur, racismo, discurso


The purpose of this article is to stimulate discussion of the implications of representing "the South," particularly with regard to the issue of social justice. Such a discussion is necessary because of the potential for our representations to reinforce an unproductive and essentialist way of thinking, one that interferes with our ability to both understand socio-spatial processes in the areas we identify as belonging to "the South" and to acknowledge the extent of injustices in the rest of the country.

For most citizens of the U.S., the term "Southern justice" is apt to connote something quite different than the idea of "American justice." "When the "national mind" thinks "South," it has long flashed back to the grimmest moments of the 1960s--a sepia-toned montage of police dogs and fire hoses and blown-up black girls in Birmingham, of housewives spitting racist epithets in Little Rock, and of a murdered saint on a hotel balcony in Memphis" (Moser 2008, p 19). The experience of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and racist violence has left its mark on the public consciousness (Mathews 2006). "The South" is often seen as being hampered by a problematic past, and it is racism in particular that is understood as "the great sorrow and burden of the South" (Roberts 1996, p 96). In a survey of newspaper articles, Griffin (2000, p 59) has demonstrated the persistence of this notion that a racist "Southern" past is a burden for (white) "Southerners." His analysis of reporting on "the South" shows that "The idea that the South exists on a visibly lower ethical plane is, quite clearly, alive and well" today, and this is explained at least in part by the association of "the South" with racism and injustice (cf Jansson 2004, 2007). …

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