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Cooper%26Knotts - Rethinking the Boundaries of the South...

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Rethinking the Boundaries of the South Christopher A. Cooper H. Gibbs Knotts Southern Cultures, Volume 16, Number 4, Winter 2010, pp. 72-88 (Article) Published by The University of North Carolina Press For additional information about this article Access Provided by University Of South Florida Libraries at 11/29/10 3:21PM GMT http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/scu/summary/v016/16.4.cooper.html
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72 South Polls Rethinking the Boundaries of the South By christopher a. cooper anD h. giBBs knotts John Shelton Reed’s work in the 1970s and afterward demonstrated the decline in the prevalence of “Dixie” in business names across the South. Although D.C.’s “Dixie Theater”—here, ca. 1920—might suGest there once had been a case for conceptually situating the nation’s capitol in the South, Reed’s work over fifty years later determined a region comprising Oklahoma, Kentucky, and the eleven states of the Old Confederacy. Many sociologists—and the U.S. Census—continue to locate D.C. in the South. Photograph courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress.
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South Polls 73 Some states just don’t feel all that southern anymore. Take Virginia as an example. Virginia is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and the capital of the Confederacy. Two hundred years ago there was little doubt that Virginia was not only southern but, arguably, the core of the region. Today, however, many inhabitants of the Old Dominion state seem more like they belong in the Northeast than in the South. In Northern Virginia, where residents are more likely to be career government bureaucrats than members of industries that have long driven the southern econ- omy, attachment to the South seems to be declining. Similar stories can be written about the decline of southern identity in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Florida’s burgeoning I-4 corridor. In substantial portions of these states, sushi- grade tuna and low-fat mocha lattes are taking their place beside barbecue and sweet tea. Demographically, these peripheral South states have experienced an in- flux of Latinos and a decline in the proportion of native southerners. These demo- graphic shifts have resulted in political outcomes different from the majority of the (solid Republican) South, including support for then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama in 2008. 1 Contrast these three states with places like Oklahoma and Kentucky. Neither was part of the Confederacy, yet both possess cultural characteristics that look a lot like the other states in the traditional South. Toby Keith, perhaps the best-known country musician today, hails from Oklahoma and wears his southern identity like a badge of honor, releasing an album titled Shock’n Y’all and frequently appearing in his music videos alongside a Confederate flag. Political scientists Gary Cope- land, Rebecca Cruise, and Ronald Keith Gaddie agree that Oklahoma is increas- ingly southern, citing the growth in the Republican Party and the Christian Right as prime examples of Oklahoma’s regional identity. They argue that “Oklahoma—
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Cooper%26Knotts - Rethinking the Boundaries of the South...

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