Although often stereotyped as the “nation’s other,” the South has participated in every military conflict since the Civil War, and like the nation, has been transformed by the rise of cities, multinational corporations, and webbed systems of transportation and communication. Increasingly, it has interacted - as it always has - with the CircumCaribbean, through trade, political ruptures and treaties, cultural exchanges, and mutual cultural influences, particularly music, art, and dance.
Concurrently, Southerners have had transnational contacts with Europe and Africa, from the tragedy of the Middle Passage to this century’s of international exchanges of all kinds. As a crucial component of Southern culture, Southern literature has mapped histories of Native Americans, Diasporic Africans, colonization, slavery, immigration, agriculture, industrialization, and increasingly, urbanization.
While the study of Southern cultures once was concentrated in literature and history, it has expanded to include food studies, climate studies, race and gender studies, ethnic studies (especially African American and Native Studies), queer studies, and popular culture, which includes film, television, graphic works, music, and digital media. These developments have been absorbed by the “New Southern Studies,” which has generated many new approaches to the U.S. South and its larger configurations with the CircumCaribbean, the hemisphere, and the Atlantic World. Critics such as Richard Gray, Patricia Yaeger, Martyn Bone, Harriet Pollack, Thadious Davis, Jose Limón, Trudier Harris, Keith Cartwright, Anna Brickhouse, Gary Richards and Susan Donaldson have put a new slant on the field of Southern literature. Also, the configuration of the U.S. South with the Caribbean has brought in theoretical perspectives from figures such as Édouard Glissant, J. Michael Dash, Valérie Loichot, Deborah Cohn, and Vincent Pérez. Historians such as David Blight, Marcus Rediker, Rebecca J. Scott, Matthew Guterl, Nell Painter, Michael Trouillot, Daniel Heath Justice, Chadwick Allen, and Rod Ferguson and others have reshaped our concepts of Southern and CircumCaribbean history.
Many UGA students hail from the South, so this focus on its cultural history and heritage comprises a valuable and magnetic mirror, one that reflects the confluences, conflicts, and inheritance of a polyglot people. This Southern Studies concentration thereby offers a valuable foundation for negotiations with our nation’s present and futures.