Review: Other Souths
Pippa Holloway, ed. Other Souths: Diversity and Difference in the U.S. South, Reconstruction to Present. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008. 451 pp. ISBN 9780820330525.
Taken together, the fifteen previously published essays in this collection offer a new way of thinking about the history of the American South. By focusing on the diversity of the region, contributors interrogate race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, as well as the interrelations among these categories. With a broad span of topics such as disputes over the future of the Auburn University football program, southern draft resistance during World War I, female consumers, southern folklore, sexual delinquency, homophobia, and southern environmental policy, this collection attempts to transform the narrative of southern history by shifting the focus to the often neglected components of the southern past.
For the most part, the essays included in this volume succeed at pushing beyond the confines of the traditional narrative of southern history. For example, by highlighting the intellectual diversity in Georgia after World War II, Jennifer E. Brooks shows how both whites and blacks returned from the war prepared to challenge southern racism and create a new brand of southern politics. Lu Ann Jones uncovers the many ways women in the rural New South shaped the nature of commerce and consumer culture. Stacy Braukman tells the story of how a Florida anticommunist commission transformed itself during the 1960s into an organization determined to root out homosexual teachers in high schools and colleges. In these and other essays, contributors call our attention to significant yet often neglected elements of southern history.
Readers of this journal will be disappointed by the minimal attention paid to the religious diversity of the region in this reinterpretation of southern history. In the few instances when religion does warrant consideration, contributors rarely consider the subject in fresh or innovative ways. For example, readers will learn that fundamentalist Baptist morality played a significant role in the development of a football program at Auburn University and that religious ideas were important in the formation of a white southern identity. Beyond these brief mentions of religious ideology, however, the authors fail to treat religion in the same sophisticated manner in which they discuss race, gender, and ethnicity.
Yet historians of southern religion could benefit from this volume by taking seriously the overarching goal of its contributors. Even if these essays tend to neglect the rich religious diversity of the South, taken together they do at least point the way toward integrating the region’s economic, social, and political history with religion.