Wounds of Returning: Race, Memory, and Property on the Postslavery Plantation

By Jessica Adams | Go to book overview

3. Roadside Attractions

And while I had my back turned to him I said the only thing that I
could think to say, and the only thing I knew I really wanted. I said,
Elvis, can you stay awhile with me? And he talked back and said,
“Howard, I’m on a tight schedule.”
Howard Finder

Tourist attractions are “precisely analogous to the religious symbolism of primitive peoples,” remarked sociologist Dean MacCannell in 1976. MacCannell argued that the tourist is a model of “modern man in general” who, armed with leisure and disposable income, seeks to patch the cracks in modernity’s master narratives. “Sightseeing is a ritual performed to the differentiations of society” he writes. “It is a kind of collective striving for a transcendence of the modern totality, of incorporating its fragments into unified existence. Of course, it is doomed to eventual failure: even as it tries to construct totalities, it celebrates differentiation.”1 MacCannell’s insistence that visiting tourist attractions has become a means of understanding the order of things is borne out in the popularity of places of death and memorial with sightseers.2 Visiting symbolic cultural sites, contemporary tourists perform “primitive” quests for self-knowledge: Where did we come from? Where are we going? And the answers they receive are inevitably incomplete, even thoroughly fabricated—by themselves. In nostalgia for the Old South, a clearly denned and singular “truth” appears to overcome the irruptions of a more troubling paradigm. The image of the plantation as an uncomplicated site of white achievement offers solace in the face of civil rights or affirmative action, but its attempt to construct a less heterogeneous time and place across landscapes irrevocably shaped

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Wounds of Returning: Race, Memory, and Property on the Postslavery Plantation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Sex and Segregation 21
  • 2- Plantations without Slaves 54
  • 3- Roadside Attractions 86
  • 4- Southern Frontiers 108
  • 5- Stars and Stripes 135
  • Epilogue 159
  • Notes 161
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 217
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