Academic journal article American Studies

FINDING PURPLE AMERICA: The South and the Future of American Studies

Academic journal article American Studies

FINDING PURPLE AMERICA: The South and the Future of American Studies

Article excerpt

FINDING PURPLE AMERICA: The South and the Future of American Studies. By Jon Smith. Athens: University of Georgia Press. 2013.

Jon Smith presents a pointed, often cutting critique of the disciplinary practices of traditional southern studies for its obsession with "folklore, orality, the presence of the past, the sense of place, and the sense of community" (30). Old southern studies has been marked (marred, per Smith) by baby boomers' maudlin (and, he argues, self-serving) preoccupation with asking "whether, as a result of modernity's instability, we have not Lost Something Very Important" (6). Just as standard-issue southern studies has been stuck in a tautological feedback loop around its Lacanian objet a of "The Past," American studies is similarly cathected, not on pastness, but on futurity, especially "crisis" thinking. "The South," for Smith, is "a meaningless term, naming nothing but fantasies: either a great, 100-million-resident void at the heart of American studies, or a ridiculously strained attempt at identity politics at the heart of old southern studies" (22). He opts instead to train down to "Alabama" as a more manageable nexus of "several and very complex, alternative modernities" (22) that sidesteps the fetishizations pervading American studies (futuristic "postmodern" Los Angeles) and traditional southern studies (old-timey Mayberry). Birmingham becomes an appropriate metonym for Alabamaness as a striated, synthetic (meaning both "mixed together" and "artificial") space, color-schemed neither blue nor red, but "purple," which "substantively denotes hybridity and temporal ambivalence, and methodologically denotes a consequent impatience with disciplinary ideologies, still surprisingly strong, of national and regional exceptionalism and purity" (23). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.