Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship and Georgia State University's Cities Initiative and the Department of Geosciences invite proposals for presentations at the Second Annual Atlanta Studies Symposium. The day-long symposium will be held April 4, 2014 at Georgia State University and will feature presentations by, among others, Clarence Stone, Research Professor at George Washington University and author of Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946–1988, and LeeAnn Lands, Associate Professor of American Studies and History, Kennesaw State University and author of The Culture of Property: Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880–1950.
The symposium seeks to convene an interdisciplinary meeting of scholars and activists to learn from and act on research about Atlanta, including the central city and its metropolitan area.
Potential themes for presentation topics include (but are not limited to):
- Public Space and Private Property
- Downtown Atlanta as a Site of Political Struggle
- Urban Mobility and Access
- Urban Politics
- Identity and Place in a Global Southern City
Proposals for papers, talks, multi-media presentations, or round-table discussions should be no more than 400 words. We welcome proposals on any aspect of Atlanta, but priority will be given to those that relate to the themes listed above. Preference will also be given to proposals for fully constituted panels. Cover letters for panels should indicate the theme and identify panel participants. We hope to make this event as engaging as possible and encourage presentations that represent work-in-progress that will benefit from open conversation. Please include audio-video requirements in your proposal.
|Megabus Coach USA MCI 102EL3 #29030, August 8, 2006. Photograph by Steinsky. Courtesy of Steinsky.|
Last Spring, Edward A. Hatfield wrote for Southern Spaces on the challenges of transportation planning in the Atlanta metro area, analyzing the complex mobility politics of a southern urban center. A recent New York Times article highlights similar transportation issues plaguing rural communities in Texas. After buying rural routes from the Kerrville Bus Company in 2012, the discount travel company Megabus recently discontinued service to small towns in Texas' Southwest Area Regional Transit District, leaving much of the state without intercity transportation, mirroring challenges in providing adequate public transportation to rural communities across the US South and beyond.
In an update to Dan Carter's recent assessment of the political tumult in North Carolina government, the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against North Carolina's restrictive voting law, following the precedent it set by challenging a similar voter identification bill in Texas. Both North Carolina and Texas passed voter identification laws following the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As Steve Suits argued persuasively in his analysis of the resurgence of state sovereignty arguments, the long-term impact of this historic Supreme Court decision and subsequent voter identification bills remains to be seen.
Appalachian activist and poet Wendell Berry published a new poetry collection titled This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems, documenting and exploring Berry's habitual Sunday strolls on his farm in Kentucky. Earlier this year, Berry was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, in recognition of his lifelong dedication to literary explorations of community and conservation. Contributing the forward to Erik Reece and James Krupa's recent publication The Embattled Wilderness, Berry reminds readers of the fragile balance between man, market, and the landscapes they inhabit.
The old women began arriving in the domino room of the Chauvin Library, where my dad suggested I1 go film as part of my fieldwork. I propped myself up in the corner of the room, making small talk in Cajun French even though my "project" tries to avoid nativist ideologies about Louisiana culture.2 I saw that a completely out of place person had walked in. I immediately recognized her as one of my own3—a strange feeling when one is already "home" and is certain that this person is from elsewhere.
|Selfie at dawn on a trawl boat, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.|
A week and a half later, Lindsey and I took selfies at sunrise on a trawl boat in Lake Boudreaux. Our projects in Louisiana were radically different: she was from Tucson, Arizona, working in Louisiana as part of a government-funded anthropology initiative that has been in Louisiana for fifteen years, her dissertation will be on prisoners. I work in straight-up theory, writing about how people perform their culture and where the fantasies that govern their actions come from.
Over the next month, we4 sort of fell into a rhythm of collaborative ethnography. We began interviewing people in tandem, exploring a place that was new and strange for Lindsey and more or less familiar and invisible for me. This emerging situation began to blur the lines between our two positions as researchers, a process that is apparent in our writing about this experience, a shift from the first-person singular to the first-person dual, from the subjective (and/or objective) voice to something else: a practice of collaborative perspective.
The choice to write as "we" is a decision to both duplicate vision and to unify it, to see something less bound by our disciplines and imaginations. It is also a way to alternatively navigate the space of the anthropological field, here being Chauvin, Louisiana, a small "census-designated place" in southern Louisiana. The following is a selection of fieldnotes from June 2013.5
We went trawling on Boudreaux Canal at sunset with a married couple who claimed that they didn't need to belong to a church, didn't need a priest or a pastor, because God blessed them with every good catch and there's no place of worship like the hull of a boat.
We drove past the dock where we eventually went on our first trawl-boat ethnography extravaganza, and there was the smell of it. Somebody had left some shrimp peelings in a garbage can to ferment in the heat of Louisiana June.
We sat at a long wooden dining table in Chauvin with Christopher's grandpa so Lindsey could conduct an interview, and he served us snowballs the right way—stuffed—with cherry flavoring and condensed milk.
|Trawling at dawn, route. Satellite imagery courtesy of Google Earth.|
We want trawling in Lake Boudreaux at sunrise. One shrimper was from the days when men were shrimpers. His voice was deep and gravely enough to be heard over the boat's motors. He had an apprentice who wore a rubber bracelet with a single word: "Work." We came full of coffee thermoses because it was four in the morning. We were nervous about being too late for the launch.
|Work bracelet, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.|
We snuck out of a Cajun dance hall—overstimulated with the visible spectacle of an over-conscious culture, overburdened with the responsibility of being responsible, needing something quiet involving still water, heavy air, and cigarettes.
We created a brief and incomplete taxonomy of sheds:
- abandoned storage units, collapsed by storms, sometimes housing the bones of small animals;
- rabbit coops overgrown with blackberry vines, lichen, and other muds;
- sheds frozen in time circa 1998, filled with tackleboxes, house siding, oxygen tanks, and gigantic spiders; and
- work areas that are walled rooms beneath raised houses, filled with industrial machines lost to history, cable boxes and plugs, and regular tools (see footnote six).
|Shed, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.|
We dealt with Christopher's dad's junk.6
We drove east to the next bayou over to find a place to play pool, to engage in a night resembling the mundane, and found ourselves in the back of a fast food restaurant drinking Coors Light from bottles, chalking cues where we were the only customers.
We ate crawfish among Southern Baptists at Christopher's friend's engagement party, discussing ethnographies of alternative sexual communities. Everyone had gone inside, except us and the mosquitos, which swarmed us no matter how many box fans we directed towards them. We jumped a rope fence, sort of. We itched for days. We were met with only some suspicion.
We went to see Great Gatsby at an extravagantly nice movie theater in New Orleans, a disruption in the flow of down-the-bayou aesthetic, and we remarked that being served parmesan flavored popcorn by waitstaff seemed appropriate while watching that particular film.
We sat in a mansion in Houma—one that is once a year a haunted house—and ate seeds from mason jars while talking politics with a local community organizer and his tenant, another grad student doing interviews.7
Perhaps the presence of researchers in Louisiana (or any location) should be looked at as an opportunity to practice seeing with others. Our fieldnotes are not fieldnotes in that archetypal sense, though they hold the ghost of the classical fieldnote. They're punctuated by experience rather than a strict chronology. They were written from memory—specifically, memory delimited by another person. These fieldnotes are conversations.
|Ghost selfie, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Christopher Lirette.|
They are conversations literally and figuratively. We talked to each other in the process of writing them, and we travelled together while doing research. And we spoke with people in Chauvin, and were part of their lives. We travelled with them too. The word conversation comes from conversatio, or "living with," which itself comes from con (with) and verso (to turn). These fieldnotes are not just observations but the relics of a time spent living together, with each other, with a place, with a people. We're exploring a method of research that might allow us as anthropologists to critically examine the people and places beyond our own imaginaries, to let them see us. It can mean letting people in on the cover up.
- 1. The blog post starts with the voice of Christopher, since we were having a hard time beginning in a plural voice. Also, his voice has previously appeared on the Southern Spaces blog.
- 2. For instance, the ideologies that promote a romantic Cajun nationalism where everyone speaks perfect Louisiana French and, I guess, traps nutria for a living.
- 3. Twenty-something creative types, generally seen wearing thick-framed glasses.
- 4. We being, for the rest of this post, Lindsey and Christopher.
- 5. We conceive of the concept of "fieldnotes" as an archetypal form. Fieldnotes are, for anthropologists intent on following tradition, the symbols of professional identity and ethnographic authority. From the time of Bronislaw Malinowski, the father of modern anthropological fieldwork (i.e., getting out of the armchair and into the real world; see Malinowski's seminal work, Argonauts of the Western Pacific [London: George Routledge and Sons, 1932]), fieldnotes have become material markers of doing ethnography. Fieldnotes are made up of daily logs, filled with short conversations or encounters, and some proto-analysis of what was seen. Fieldnotes are also the site of thick description, which is the act of writing down, through a hyper-awareness of the place the researcher is temporarily occupying, the seemingly minute details of everyday life. This is important because, as Clifford Geertz—the first to practice and name thick description—explains, we may not notice the difference between a wink or a twitch without the context that surrounds it. See Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 6.
- 6. Actually, by junk we mean a more or less complete material history of labor, culture, and religion in Chauvin in the "long" twentieth century. He began with a family tree project that quickly became a collection of family photos, which began to amass heirlooms, furniture, machinery, and local publications dating back to the 1860s and encompassing much more than his own genealogy.
- 7. Apparently, 2013 will be remembered as "the year grad students descended upon south Louisiana to work their ethnographies."
New Adventures in Tandem Ethnography»
The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.
- The Equality of Opportunity project, a research initiative led by four economists from Harvard and Berkeley, released a working paper detailing the variation in income-mobility across the US States's "commuting zones." Unsurprisingly, parts of the US South did not make a good showing in terms of upward mobility. The study proposes that a lack of upward mobility is correlated to the presence commuter zones that have sprawling neighborhoods segregated by race and income, lower quality K–12 education, and a higher proportion of single-parent families. If you live in Atlanta, where Southern Spaces is based, then these descriptions are probably feeling familiar. Research agrees: Atlanta, which ranked the fifth worst of the one hundred largest commuter zones in the study (worst here meaning the least likely for children born to low-income families to ever rise out of poverty), was used by The New York Times and Atlanta Magazine to illustrate these correlations. Nevertheless, this study only identified elements correlated to a lack of upward mobility without regard for causation. So if you'd like to know why a sprawling metropole ranks so low while other such commuter zones (such as Houston) rank higher, you might want to consider using this project's data to launch a study of your own.
- Following up on Shelby County v. Holder, the case that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, the US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration set in process actions that would reinstate the voting law preclearance in Texas, bringing a case to a federal court in Texas that would invoke Section 3(c) of the VRA, a section that gives the federal government authority to add districts to the preclearance list if there is substantial evidence of discriminatory voting practices. Using Section 3(c) would give the federal government full rights to enforce Section 5, the part of the VRA that actually calls for preclearance but is now moot due to the Supreme Court overruling Section 4(b), the provision that populated the list of jurisdictions that required preclearance. If Holder's strategy succeeds in Texas, the reinstatement of blocked voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination might be short-lived.
- Though sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional in 2003 by the Supreme Court, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's department has busted upwards of twelve men since 2011 with Louisiana's outdated sodomy law. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the department sent male undercover officers to cruise for men in Manchac park, wired for surveillance. After engaging in flirty banter with a target, the undercover agent would suggest they take the conversation to his apartment for "some drinks and some fun." The agent would then suggest they practice safe sex using condoms, before arresting the unsuspecting target. The charge? Attempting a crime against nature. The Sheriff's department offered an explanation on Facebook: "To our knowledge, the Sheriff's office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable." None of the last twelve case actually made it to court, since District Attorney Hillar Moore III found no evidence of any crimes committed. Louisiana is not alone in having anti-sodomy laws still on the books: it is "illegal" to engage in oral or anal sex in fourteen states and Michigan was caught doing special "sting" operations targeting gay men in 2011.
- In other sodomy news, Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has launched a campaign to bring back Virginia's anti-sodomy law.1 He argues that without an anti-sodomy law (here defined again as oral or anal sex) prosecutors have no way to convict sexual predators who would target children, despite the cornucopia of both state and federal laws that are still in effect.2 In 2009, Cuccinelli argued, "homosexual acts are . . . intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country, it's appropriate to have policies that reflect that." Though the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 2003, they remain in the Virginia Code. A federal appeals court specifically struck down this statute this March in the course of a case where an adult male solicited oral sex from a seventeen year old on the basis that the prosecution used the crimes against nature statue upon which to base its case.
- 1. The first proposed law on sodomy in the newly formed United States of America was introduced by a committiee including none other than Thomas Jefferson. This revision of the contemporary Virginia law carried a penalty of castration for men and "cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least" for women for committing rape, polygamy, or sodomy. This proposal, which included revisions for several other crimes, was rejected, retaining the death penalty in case of sodomy.
- 2. 18.2-48(ii)(iii), 13.2-61, 13.2-63, 18.2-67.3, 18.2-67.4, 18.2-370, and 18.2-374 (respectively Abduction for Immoral Purpose, Rape, Carnal Knowledge of Minor where the perpetrator is more than five years older than the victim, Aggravated Sexual Battery or Sexual Contact with the victim being under thirteen, Sexual battery where the perpetrator is over eighteen but the victim is under six, Taking Indecent Liberties with a Minor, and Child Pornography).
The Bulletin—August 6, 2013»
|Advertisement announcing reward for runaway slave, Wilmington Advertiser, May 24, 1839. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.|
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) have launched the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project, a database of all known runaway slave ads in North Carolina newspapers between 1751 and 1840. With its comprehensive focus, the project is a useful resource for scholars and students interested in the history of slavery and resistance. In addition to scanned advertisements, the database includes transcripts and rich metadata for easy querying of the approximately 2400 ads. Additonally, project staff have provided some brief historical context for researchers. Samantha Winer, a digitization and transcription assistant, writes that this project offers, "insight not only into conditions and lifestyles experienced by the slaves but also into the plantation economy."1
|Advertisement for a runaway slave, North Carolina Gazette, May 5, 1775. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.|
While the structure of most ads is uniform, some offer deeper insight into the global system of slavery. This 1775 ad from Wilmington, for example, details the escape of a slave named Quamino with two indentured servants. In addition to the typical physical description ("about 30 Years of Age, has a Scar above his right Eye . . ."), the slaveholder has noted that Quamino is "marked with his Country Marks," or patterns of facial scarification that served as markers of ethnicity and identification.2 Clicking through the hyperlinked term "country marks" reveals that the phrase is in circulation in the eighteenth century, but its last appearance is in 1807—a year before the United States prohibited the importation of slaves. This shift in the visuality of slavery might be of interest to scholars who want to study the changing nature of the US slave economy.
|Screenshot from North Carolina Runaway Slave database.|
This database is one of the latest additions to digital resources about runaway slaves. While most databases do not yet provide features like transcripts, there are a number of useful tools available for researchers and students. UNCG has created the Digital Library on American Slavery, a database of nearly 3,000 legislative petitions, 14,500 county court petitions, as well as personal documents like wills and bills of sale. Professor Thomas Costa at the University of Virgina has compiled runaway slave advertisements from 18th-century Virginia newspapers. One of the most comprehensive sources of information about runaway slaves and their journeys comes from the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. Their Runaway Journeys project contains maps, images, documents, and lesson plans. This comprehensive resource covers the history of slavery, routes of runaway slaves, the Civil War, and its aftermath. The North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project's comprehensive coverage, rich metadata, and searchable transcripts make the database a highly useful contribution to these existing tools.
- 1. Samantha Winer, "A brief history of slavery in North Carolina," North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements, 1751–1840, http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/history/collection/RAS.
- 2. Of course, physical markings cannot necessarily be correlated with ethnicity or geographic origin. As Michael Gomez notes in Exhanging Our Country Marks (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1998), it is notoriously difficult to track the geographical origins of enslaved peoples, as owners would often ascribe places of birth that are difficult to verify.
North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements Project»
|Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., June 7, 2009. Photograph by Mark Fischer. Courtesy of Mark Fischer.|
As our bulletins have previously reported, legislatures in a number of southern states have attempted to implement substantial and often controversial changes to their election rules in the last few years. Some of these legislative actions have been blocked by federal courts under section five of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). For example, The US District Court for the District of Columbia denied preclearance to a redistricting plan and voter ID law passed in Texas in 2011 and 2012 because the state failed to prove that these laws did not "have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under section five of the Voting Rights Act." However, the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder held that section four of the VRA—which defined a formula to identify areas of the country (many of which were in southern states) that required changes to voting laws be precleared by the Department of Justice or federal courts based on historic voting rights violations—was unconstitutional. As a result, the capacity of the federal government to challenge changes to states' voting laws and protect minority voters is substantially diminished.
As Steve Suitts argued in a recent Southern Spaces piece ("Voting Rights, the Supreme Court, and the Persistence of Southern History"), changes to voting laws in southern states have been employed by legislators to deny African Americans and other minorities the franchise across the US South. Suitts's piece describes what was at stake in the Shelby County case and how it fit within both federal and sectional histories of voting rights oversight and restrictions.
In the wake of the decision, southern states moved to enact or resurrect restrictive voter ID laws. A few hours after the court's ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared that the state's previously-blocked voter ID law and redistricting plans would go into effect immediately without approval from the federal government. In a similar move, South Carolina's Attorney General Alan Wilson declared that the state's new voter ID law—which was blocked by the Justice Department in 2011 before being precleared by a federal court in 2012—could now be enacted without asking permission or "being required to jump through the extraordinary hoops demanded by federal bureaucracy." A 2011 voter ID law passed in Alabama, but not yet precleared by the Justice Department, will presumably move forward now that a key barrier to its implementation has been removed. Virginia's pending voter ID law now is also free of preclearance requirements and will likely be implemented as well. Mississippi's voter ID law—put on hold by the Justice department in 2011 because the state failed to prove that its implementation would not hinder minority voting—will also move forward.
The impact of the court's ruling is especially apparent in North Carolina where the state's Republican-led legislature is moving to reshape voting laws, triggering protests and criticism in the media. A new voter ID law which passed the North Carolina House earlier this year but was held up in the Senate to wait for the Supreme Court ruling will now move forward. Another pending bill would likely curb college-age voting by preventing parents from claiming college students as dependents on their state income tax returns if their child registers to vote at their college address. Republican lawmakers in the state also plan to introduce an "omnibus voting bill" in the next few weeks that would decrease the number of early voting days and eliminate Sunday voting and same-day voter registration. Civil and voting rights groups in the state have already filed suit against the state's 2010 redistricting plan, characterizing it as "a cynical strategy to disenfranchise blacks," and vowing to fight any further changes to the state's election laws in the wake of the Shelby County decision. North Carolinians have been protesting outside the General Assembly since April in a series of "Moral Monday" demonstrations over a variety of Republican-led legislative actions, from changes in election rules to drastic cuts in unemployment benefits, education, and other programs. Yesterday, The New York Times editorial board lamented in an editorial entitled "The Decline of North Carolina" that a state "once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness" has had its reputation tarnished by the legislative agenda of its first majority-Republican legislature since 1870.
Opponents of these changes suggest that new voting rules like voter ID laws, redistricting, and limited early voting are designed to increase the influence of southern white conservative voters in a section of the country undergoing dramatic demographic change. According to the US Census Bureau, of eleven states whose Hispanic populations doubled between 2000 and 2011, nine were in the South. Hispanic voters, retirees, and transplants from other sections of the country are transforming the southern electorate, and the latest wave of changes to voting rules has many commentators wondering if the Republican Party can maintain its majorities while continuing to disfranchise southern voters. In the meantime, with federal preclearance effectively gutted, civil and voting rights groups will have to rely on lawsuits from private citizens to challenge changes to election procedures until Congress re-writes the section four rules invalidated by the Supreme Court.
The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.
- On Tuesday, June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled five–four to strike down section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This section describes the formula for determining which jurisdictions have a history of racial discrimination and would require federal preclearance to change local voting laws. The formula was renewed by Congress in 2006 after lawmakers concluded that racial discrimination during elections, redistricting, and voter registration did, indeed, still exist. In 2011, Shelby County—an Alabama county that previously fell under the coverage of the provision—sued US Attorney General Eric Holder, arguing that "The South has changed." Chief Justice John Roberts, in the majority opinion, agreed: "Things have changed in the South. "
- Also on that Tuesday, Texas Senator Wendy Davis stood and talked for eleven straight hours, singlehandedly defeating a sweeping abortion regulation bill that would have outlawed abortions after twenty weeks and forced all abortion sites to register as ambulatory surgical centers. Davis previously filibustered a budget that saw huge cuts to education for eight hours. Although that budget ultimately went through after Governor Rick Perry called a special session, Davis's stand against a right-wing state caught the imagination of the nation, inspiring hashtags (#StandwithWendy, #LetHerSpeak), a chant, liveblogs, and a mention from none other than Barack Obama. Governor Perry, however, planned to call a special session for another chance to eliminate abortion in the state of Texas, which is currently underway.
- Texas killed Kimberly McCarthy, the 500th Texan inmate executed since the Supreme Court lifted a nationwide moratorium on executions in 1976, when they ruled that the state of Georgia had the constitutional right to kill Troy Leon Gregg.1 McCarthy, convicted of robbing, beating, and stabbing to death a seventy-one-year-old emeritus professor of psychology, was injected with one large dose of pentobarbital and died at 6:37 p.m. on June 26, 2013. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned her conviction in 2001, but McCarthy lost during a retrial in Dallas County. During sentencing, prosecutors alleged that she had also stabbed to death two elderly women, and the jury sentenced her to die by lethal injection. Governor Rick Perry has presided over 301 of Texas's executions, which make up nearly forty percent of total US executions.
- 1. Incidentally, Gregg was never executed because he escaped from Georgia State Prison the night before his scheduled execution in 1980, only to be beaten to death in a bar fight in North Carolina. Texas executed the nation's first post-moratorium prisoner in 1982, Charles Brooks, the first person to be executed by lethal injection and the first African American executed since 1967.
The Bulletin—July 2, 2013»