Global Contexts, Local Literatures: The New Southern Studies

Recent debates about globalism have usefully transformed the positioning and the cultural geography of studies of the American South. Once marked by tensions between the national and the regional, southern studies is now increasingly characterized by tensions between the local and the global. This special issue of American Literature features interdisciplinary and comparative work that focuses on the U.S. South in global contexts and attempts to reconceptualize the South from various theoretical, literary, and cultural perspectives. The new southern studies promises to be less preoccupied with patriarchal whiteness and rural idyll and more concerned with understanding the U.S. South as a construction of border crossings of every sort. Featured essays examine the political, economic, and social effects of globalization on the geopolitical locale and literary productions of the region. Each seeks to redefine the geographic and epistemological boundaries of the U.S. South by linking it to other Souths globally. The issue opens with a collection of manifestos given at the recent conference The U.S. South in Global Context. These unique pieces offer variant perspectives on a common theme. Touching on history, community, migration, globalizing modernization, and even Wal-Mart, these sixteen briefs remind the reader that the American South is somewhere between the modern cosmopolitan and the historical rural spheres. One contributor examines how modernization has spread unevenly throughout the region and how it has affected recent immigrants to southern hybrid culture. Another engages in a comparative exercise between the U.S. South and Latin America, addressing questions of postcolonialism. Other contributors reflect on southern distinctiveness, southern literature, and southern colonial life. Included in the issue is a collection of original and review essays focused geographically on still lower latitudes: investigations of the Deep South and certain Caribbean cultures, and comparisons of the U.S. South to the underprivileged global South.