The Southern Quarterly recently published a special issue devoted to the work of Natasha Trethewey, US Poet Laureate and member of Southern Spaces's editorial board. As Southern Quarterly editor Philip C. Kolin notes, at forty-seven, Trethewey is "the youngest writer to have a special issue [of the journal] focused on her achievements."1 In an essay eulogizing the poet Seamus Heaney, Trethewey describes feeling a "calling to make sense of my South, with its terrible beauty, its violent and troubled past,"2 signaling how the southern and spatial contexts in which she grew up inform the themes she engages in her writing. Guest edited by Joan Wylie Hall, the Southern Quarterly special issue addresses themes of history, race, place, memory, and intertextuality through poems, an in-depth interview with Trethewey, and eight critical essays.
Southern Spaces is happy to have supported the Southern Quarterly by granting permission to include a number of images of Trethewey that have previously appeared in publications in our journal. This special issue complements scholarship published in Southern Spaces analyzing Trethewey's life and work, including Jake Adam York's 2010 interview with Trethewey, and Coleman Hutchison's presentation "Three Poems and a Critique of Postracialism," which charts how Trethewey and poets Elizabeth Alexander and C. S. Giscombe "conceive of, interrogate, and then steadfastly refuse the concept of the postracial in and for a post-emancipation society."3 Former Southern Spaces managing editor Katie Rawson compiled a bibliography of Trethewey's extensive contributions to our journal in a post congratulating Trethewey on her appointment as US Poet Laureate.
Copies of the special issue of the Southern Quarterly on Natasha Trethewey (volume 50, number 4) are available and may be ordered by following the instructions on the journal's "Order Back Issues" page. The journal has published the Natasha Trethewey issue's table of contents and introductions from the journal's editor and the special issue's guest editor on its website.
- 1. Philip C. Kolin, "Editor's Introduction: The Triple Crown," The Southern Quarterly 50, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 5, http://www.usm.edu/southern-quarterly-literary-magazine/intros/504edintro.pdf.
- 2. Natasha Trethewey, "How Seamus Heaney Influenced Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey," The Daily Beast, September 3, 2013, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/03/how-seamus-heaney-influenced-poet-laureate-natasha-trethewey.html, quoted in Joan Wylie Hall, "Guest Editor's Introduction: 'The Necessary Utterance'—Natasha Trethewey's Southern Poetics," The Southern Quarterly 50, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 7, http://www.usm.edu/southern-quarterly-literary-magazine/intros/504guestedintro.pdf.
- 3. Coleman Hutchison, "Three Poems and a Critique of Postracialism," Southern Spaces, December 25, 2012, http://southernspaces.org/2012/three-poems-and-critique-postracialism.
"I'm tired of these categories." —Patricia Yaeger1
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who received a PhD in economics from Harvard University, asks, "How many American men are gay?" While this question is notoriously difficult to answer in any definitive way, and though he uses non-"ideal" sources such as "surveys, social networks, pornographic searches, and dating sites" to compile "evidence" on the "number of gay men" in this country, Stephens-Davidowitz still finds a "consistent story" that suggests at least 5 percent of American men are "predominately" attracted to other men. Millions of these "gay men," he goes on to say, still live in the closet, and many, the "evidence suggests," are married to women.2
The attempt to statistically classify and pinpoint the number of "gay" men "in our midst" is nothing new. Unveiling and unmasking our identities so that we can be categorized, numbered, and made intelligible forms part of what Michel Foucault, in his History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge, called the "deployment of sexuality."3 The "truth" of sex for Foucault is not found in individual identity; instead he insists that we must develop an "analytics" that views power as diffuse and capillary, refusing the perhaps too-easy notion that a power over sex can be wielded via a conquering "liberation" or dominating "affirmation" of one's own knowable, classifiable sexuality.4
|Participants march in the 2009 Memphis, Tennessee gay pride parade. Photograph by Debbie Ramone. Courtesy of Debbie Ramone.|
Stephens-Davidowitz's Times opinion piece (and the larger work it suggests) explicitly places sexuality within this framework of exposure, intelligibility, and liberation that Foucault problematized. Stephens-Davidowitz returns us to the closet so that we may link hands with those who experience a "secret suffering" that "can be directly attributed to intolerance of [their] homosexuality" and walk with them into more tolerant climes and locales.5 The majority of these "secret" sufferers live in intolerant states, which according to Nate Silver, nearly all fall neatly below the Mason-Dixon line. The bottom six states, the "least tolerant," in descending order, are South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Of the twenty-three states listed as above the national average of "tolerance," not one is in the South.6 In more tolerant states, "the openly gay population is dramatically higher." Yet, these "less tolerant states" or "intolerant areas" prevent what Stephens-Davidowitz finds implicitly possible: a "perfectly tolerant world" in which a neat 5 percent of men could say they are "interested in men," which of course is different from saying they openly identify as "gay." Stephens-Davidowitz finds no reason to believe there are fewer gay-inclined men in less tolerant states, but there are "far fewer openly gay men," and therefore, "there is a clear relationship between tolerance and openness" about one's sexuality.7
Stephens-Davidowitz buys into a narrative with a history. Mississippi has long been described with an array of debasing superlatives, consistently occupying the proverbial bottom rung of the ladder in our national obsession with rankings. Writing in 1931, H. L. Mencken and Charles Angoff labeled Mississippi the "worst" American state; in 2014, Politico writer Margaret Slattery echoed this line of thought, implicitly labeling Mississippi both the "worst" and the "weakest" state in her ranking of the fifty US states from weakest to strongest. (Slattery even gives us a formula: "1 = Best.").8 The strongest state, Massachusetts, is ironically the most "fabulous" state, while Mississippi, most intolerant, is far from fabulous; it is, Slattery writes, a "failed" state. According to both Silver and Stephens-Davidowitz, Mississippi has failed the tolerance test; it is the most intolerant, the least fabulous, and therefore the most "closed." Despite a recent Daily Show segment, in which an incognito gay couple elicited surprisingly tolerant and enthusiastic (some might even say fabulous) reactions from some Alabama and Mississippi residents, Deep South states like Mississippi continue to be figured as containing the most occupied closets with doors shut.9
|Screenshot from The Daily Show segment "Last Gay Standing," 2013.|
Nowhere is this association of Mississippi with intolerance more problematic than the final turn of Stephens-Davidowitz's piece, when he "get[s] tired of looking at aggregate data" and talks with a real person, an unnamed retired Mississippi professor in his sixties who "has always known he was attracted to men" but has remained in a sexless marriage to a woman for forty years. This professor, however, did at least once sleep with a male student of his in his late twenties.10 The assumption Stephens-Davidowitz makes here is that this sixty-year-old man cannot live his life openly because he is trapped in a place of intolerance. Place becomes the diagnosed pathology. In his attempt to classify and order gay men, he fails to analyze the fact that place is only one factor in the power grid that determines what is tolerated and what is not: in his neat map of the United States's tolerance, where is an analysis or mention of gender dynamics, age and generational differences, race, class, educational and healthcare disparities, and, perhaps most glaringly, religious beliefs? Where is a discussion of intersectionality? Stephens-Davidowitz's final scene leaves one very strong desire unexamined: what of the student in his late twenties in Mississippi who slept with his older professor? Does he feel trapped in his Mississippi-closet?
To open our eyes to the realities of Mississippi beyond "aggregate data" and shed some light on that twenty-year-old gay man's reality, let us return to the University. On October 1, 2013, a University of Mississippi performance of Moisés Kaufman's The Laramie Project 11 garnered national attention when unidentified audience members uttered homophobic comments. Originally exposed in the university's Daily Mississippian, national media outlets picked up the story as another example of Mississippi's intolerance. As an alumnus of the university, I can attest that Meek Auditorium, where the performance took place, is a small and intimate space—seating only 150—in which hate-speech would reverberate loudly. The actions of those audience members are inexcusable, but are they indicative of Mississippi's peculiar intolerance of homosexuality or a microcosmic snapshot of our national discomfort in directly facing the harsh realities of hate? Does such an example make Mississippi the most backward, the absolute worst?
|Stop the Hate. Bedsheet Angels march in the 2013 Atlanta Gay Pride Parade. Photograph by Nick Mickolas. Courtesy of Nick Mickolas.|
Here, the University of Mississippi once again comes to serve as the testing site for our national struggle to understand the complexities of hate, the different shapes of violence, and the challenges we face as a nation continuously confronted with difference. On October 1, 1962, James Meredith became the first African American student at the University of Mississippi. Chaos ensued. On October 1, 2013, the Ole Miss Theatre company performed The Laramie Project. Chaos ensued. Although the physical violence and loss of life associated with James Meredith's integration of the university during the height of the civil rights movement and the verbal violence associated with the recent Laramie performance are not to be equated, both events provoke reflective questions we must ask ourselves: in fifty one years, to the day, what has changed at the University of Mississippi? And more importantly, what has changed in how we, as a nation, think about difference and the ugly truths a hatred of difference can manifest?12 (The recent defilement and attack of a campus statue memorializing James Meredith's legacy at the university demands that such questions be discussed. Here again, the University of Mississippi serves, according to a recent New York Times article, as a testing site for "confronting a challenge with deep and difficult roots.")13
The Laramie Project and the wider story of Matthew Shepard's murder are often seen as convenient stories, neat narratives, in the teaching of prejudice and tolerance. However, Shepard's is but one of the many stories of gruesome homophobic violence in this country. All of these stories—even Matthew Shepard's—contain "raw and inchoate stuff that resists easy telling" and lack "clear beginnings and resonant endings."14 In the US South alone—those states defined as the least tolerant—a number of horrific murders attributed to LGBTQ-related hate have occurred in the last thirty years.15 Lost in attempts to locate and label sexuality, thereby freeing people from their uncomfortable closets, many are unaware of stories like these, in which LGBTQ people led open lives in the South and succumbed to hate-violence. Yet, such violence and "intolerance" are far from exclusively southern, despite what Stephens-Davidowitz's non-"ideal" sources revealed. Stephens-Davidowitz admits that intolerance is a national problem with a higher prevalence in southern states, yet his overarching narrative is another link in the chain of pathologizing southern space via flawed statistical aggregation. If we tolerate the received narrative of southern space, we neither think critically nor do justice to the stories of real people outside of often biased and imperfect data.
|Stage set for Lafayette College's 2011 Production of The Laramie Project. Photograph by Chuck Zovko and Lafayette College. Courtesy of Chuck Zovko and Lafayette College.|
In 2012, according to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), the most at risk LGBTQ populations remained transgendered persons, people of color, and gay men. Stephens-Davidowitz confines his study to "gay men," without any mention of race or gender-identification. Gay cisgender men remain the most likely to report acts of violence they have survived. As such, a 2011 FBI report indicates that of the 20.8 percent of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, 57.8 percent of those reported were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.16 The NCAVP report reiterates the 2012 UCLA Williams Institute findings that "gay men experienced higher rates of hate motivated physical violence than lesbians, bisexuals, or other federally protected groups including Black people and Jewish people."17 According to the NCAVP report, of the twenty-five reported hate violence homicides related to LGBTQ identity in 2012, only one occurred in the "deep" South: Marquita Jones was murdered near Memphis, Tennessee, the tenth most intolerant state in the country according to Silver and Stephens-Davidowitz.
Shifting the narrative requires an understanding that for every Duck Dynasty, there is a Southern Poverty Law Center, a Rethink Mississippi; for every Phil Robertson, a Jesse Peel. Hate and intolerance are neither tied to place, rooted in the soil, unyielding and unchanging, nor are they manifested solely via physical violence. We must remain aware of the complexities of prejudice's functionality: how it "works not just through the viciousness of physical violence but also through the daily erosion of selfhood by the friction of widespread, casually expressed hatred."18 The casually uttered "faggot" or "queen" or "queer" in response to a dramatic production has consequences that resonate beyond the walls of Meek Auditorium at the University of Mississippi. In isolating Mississippi, and the larger US South, as the least tolerant, we put the South on stage to be disciplined and punished. How easy it was for the Mississippi audience to isolate Matthew Shepard on a stage and re-victimize him with a slur.
|ATL, Love, graffiti in Atlanta, Georgia's Krog Street Tunnel, February 17, 2014. Photograph by Eric Solomon. From Eric Solomon.|
How easy it must seem for scholars and thinkers to look at data and isolate the South as the land of intolerance: how easy it is to label the worst, the weakest, the most backward. The harder but necessary challenge is to understand and help prevent the diffuse and far-reaching consequences of homophobic violence and intolerance. The harder work is to take the lessons learned from The Laramie Project inside Meek Auditorium into Oxford, Mississippi and the world at large. To paraphrase a great man, the harder work is to understand that people aren't born hating and can learn to love.
- 1. Patricia Yaeger, Dirt and Desire: Reconstructing Southern Women's Writing, 1930–1990 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), ix.
- 2. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men are Gay?," The New York Times, December 7, 2013, accessed December 9, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/opinion/sunday/how-many-american-men-are-gay.html.
- 3. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume One: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), 78. The book's title is often translated as "Volume One: An Introduction."
- 4. Ibid., 8, 82–83.
- 5. Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men Are Gay?"
- 6. Nate Silver, "How Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage Is Changing, and What It Means," The New York Times: FiveThirtyEight blog, March 26, 2013, accessed December 9, 2013, http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/26/how-opinion-on-same-sex-marriage-is-changing-and-what-it-means.
- 7. Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men Are Gay?"
- 8. Margaret Slattery, "The States of Our Union ... Are Not All Strong: We Ranked All 50 from Fabulous to Failed," Politico Magazine, January 24, 2014, accessed February 3, 2014, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/states-of-our-union-are-not-all-strong-102547.html.
- 9. Madison Underwood, "In Alabama-Mississippi 'Intolerance-off,' The Daily Show Tests Reactions to a Gay Couple, Gets Surprising Reaction (Video, Poll)," AL.com, October 30, 2013, accessed February 20, 2014, http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/10/in_alabama-mississippi_intoler.html.
- 10. Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men Are Gay?"
- 11. Kaufman's play, written in collaboration with the Tectonic Theater Project, details reaction to Matthew Shepard's 1998 brutal murder in Laramie, Wyoming. Combining personal interviews with town residents, journals of the theater company's members as they engaged in these interviews, and media coverage, Laramie creates a complicated portrait of how a town responds to violence, hatred, and loss.
- 12. Legislatively, some things have changed while some remain the same. As Christopher Lirette noted in an August 6 bulletin on the Southern Spaces Blog, since 2011 Baton Rouge police have unlawfully arrested at least a dozen men based upon a still-on-the-books state level sodomy law that was ruled federally unconstitutional with 2003's Lawrence v. Texas. In 2003, eight of the fourteen US states with anti-sodomy laws still on the books were in the South. Baton Rouge reveals the everyday slipperiness of archaic sodomy laws. Similarly, although the 2009 Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act became the first all-inclusive federal bill, most southern states still do not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected identity categories in hate crime legislation.
- 13. Alan Blinder, "Racist Episodes Continue to Stir Ole Miss Campus," The New York Times, February 20, 2014, accessed February 22, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/us/racist-episodes-continue-to-stir-ole-miss-campus.html.
- 14. Beth Lofredda, Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), x.
- 15. Some of these deaths include the 1973 UpStairs Lounge attack; the bludgeoning of Billy Jack Gaither; Scotty Joe Weaver's partial decapitation; Sean W. Kennedy's beating; the murders of Marcel Tye, Duanna Johnson, Tiffany Berry, Ebony Whitaker, Brenting Dolliole, Githe Goines, and Marquita Jones; and lastly, the beating and burning of Marco McMillan in 2013. The stories of these murders, all occurring on southern soil, are indeed horrific, but they remain a few of the raw seams to a larger narrative of hate-based crimes in this country; they are painful examples, but far from representative of a particularly southern problem or the array of hate-based crimes that occur every year. For more information on hate crimes legislation, state by state, visit Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. For information on LGBT rights in the US South and Hate and Extremism nationwide, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, visit Robert T. Gonzalez, "An Interactive Map of Racist, Homophobic and Ableist Tweets in America," io9, May 10, 2013, http://io9.com/an-interactive-map-of-racist-homophobic-and-ableist-tw-499908637 to view the 2013 "geography of hate" map, in which hate's spatiality seems divided along an East–West line rather than a North–South one.
- 16. "Hate Crimes Statistics 2011: Incidents and Offenses," FBI, 2011, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2011/narratives/incidents-and-offenses.
- 17. Shelby Chestnut, Ejeris Dixon, and Chai Jindasurat, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2012 (New York: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2013), 51, http://www.avp.org/storage/documents/ncavp_2012_hvreport_final.pdf.
- 18. Lofredda, Losing Matt Shepard, x.
Southern Spaces is pairing with Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Library (MARBL) to publish short features on MARBL collections, events, and exhibits that tell the history of spaces and places in the US South. These posts investigate the geographical, historical, and cultural study of real and imagined southern spaces through the lens of archival sources and materials and are featured on both the Southern Spaces and MARBL blogs.
|Hope, Southern Voice, November 9, 1995. Sketch of the Hope monument. Jesse R. Peel Papers, LGBT Collections, MARBL, Emory University.|
"I fear it may be difficult to come up with another project which will be so full of meaning for me," gay rights activist Dr. Jesse Peel wrote in his journal The Camp Merton Chronicles in November 1995. Peel's project centered on the renovation of Atlanta's John Howell Park and a new statue to be installed in it. Titled Hope and designed by Felix de Weldon—the sculptor famous for designing the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington DC—the planned sculpture depicted a man, woman, and child reaching for a matrix representing a cure for AIDS. The sculpture intended to memorialize those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that led to 573,800 reported AIDS cases in the United States between 1981 and 1996. Regarding the park renovations and the statue, Peel continued, "I have devoted heart and soul to JHP [John Howell Park] this last year and a half. We will complete the infrastructure work next spring and JHP will be ready to receive the world during the Olympics. Then in October the entire HIV/AIDS and Gay communities will come together to celebrate the installation of Hope."
In spite of the passionate efforts of Peel and his Build the Monument Foundation, the memorial never materialized due to a lack of private funding. Yet, while Atlanta has no official memorial to commemorate the struggles of the LGBT population in the wake of the AIDS pandemic, the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library (MARBL) at Emory University has pledged to collect historical materials that will raise awareness of the AIDS crisis and the larger history of LGBT Atlantans. One of the first acquisitions in this endeavor is Peel's manuscript collection. Originally from North Carolina, Peel moved to Atlanta in 1976 where, as a person with HIV, he experienced first-hand both the devastating effects of AIDS and the struggle of LGBT carriers to overcome persistent social stigma.
|Jesse Peel, MARBL Woodruff Room, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2012. Photograph by Bryan Meltz of Emory University Photo Video.|
The Jesse R. Peel Papers chronicle his activism among the Atlanta LGBT population through personal correspondence, date books, and audiovisual materials. The backbone of the collection is Peel's personal diary, The Camp Merton Chronicles. A multi-volume work self-published locally and named for his Atlanta home, Camp Merton, it depicts Peel's experiences from the 1970s to the 2000s. The Camp Merton Chronicles is on display in Emory's Manuscript and Rare Books Library until May 16, 2014 as a part of the "Building a Movement in the Southeast: LGBT Collections in MARBL" multimedia exhibit that includes stories and displays artifacts from the LGBT movement, including the AIDS crisis, in Atlanta.
The New Orleans-based Amistad Research Center is the nation's oldest, largest, and most
comprehensive independent archive specializing in African American history and culture. For the first time in its history, Amistad announced on December 3 that they will be adding New Orleans hip-hop and bounce music to their historic collection. "Recent donations by the NOLA Hiphop Archive and the Where They At project," Amistad's Director of Library and Reference Services, Chris Harter, says, "have placed the Center at the forefront of efforts to document and preserve materials that chronicle the development of these genres in New Orleans."1 The importance of including hip-hop and bounce in this collection, in a city where these musics are so often segregated as something different––considered unworthy of preservation or protection and support as cultural heritage––cannot be overstated.
|NOLA Hip Hop Archive logo, 2012. Image courtesy of Holly Hobbs.|
The NOLA Hiphop Archive, which I founded in 2012, began as an effort to collect, document, and make publicly accessible oral histories of New Orleans' influential rappers, producers, and DJs who helped create and popularize hip-hop and bounce music traditions in the city and beyond. The collection currently consists of more than thirty videotaped interviews with the city's hip-hop and bounce artists and pioneers, including, among others, Mannie Fresh, Mystikal, Partners N Crime, Dee-1, Ricky B, DJ Raj Smoove, Keedy Black, Allie Baby, Nesby Phips, Sinista, DJ Quickie Mart, Nicky da B, DJ Rusty Lazer, and Queen Blackkold Madina, star of the Academy Award-winning Hurricane Katrina documentary, Trouble the Water.
The Amistad collection plans to be publically available and free of charge (either online or in person at Amistad) as a digital archive of oral histories in the spring of 2014. The NOLA Hiphop Archive just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund these efforts, and if successful, will allow the NOLA Hiphop Archive team to conduct further interviews, thereby adding a broader range of voices, perspectives, histories, and experiences to the collection. If funded, the archive team plans to add another thirty interviews to the Amistad collection by the end of 2014.
|Partners N Crime, Eastover, New Orleans, June 15, 2012. Photograph by Holly Hobbs. Courtesy of Holly Hobbs.|
Countless members of New Orleans' creative communities lost their lives or were displaced by Hurricane Katrina, many of whom remain unable to return. Furthermore, while rap music is arguably Louisiana's most lucrative cultural export, in the most widespread images of "New Orleans music," the city's rappers, producers, and DJs that helped build the tradition remain largely invisible. These issues, coupled with the ongoing realities of corruption, marginalization, violence, police harassment, and discrimination, inspired a determination to help provide resources for and further acknowledgment of artists, adding to the growing body of documentation and public support of New Orleans community-based expressive art traditions. I am excited about the ways in which the archive may, in some small way, help to address these issues. There is also a wealth of potential for growth of the archive in the near future, which could include a brick-and-mortar museum space, a "hip-hop/bounce trail" (imagine a Mississippi Blues Trail-type project that begins as an interactive app but moves toward a physical reality), a community performance space, and a youth internship program.
Viewing hip-hop and bounce music in New Orleans as expressive art forms worthy of support should not be a radical orientation. Amistad is taking one big, progressive step in the right direction. The Kickstarter campaign can be found here. Please consider donating to this exciting project.
About the Author
Holly Hobbs is currently completing her PhD at Tulane University and is writing her dissertation on post-Katrina hiphop and recovery in New Orleans. She has also worked as a promoter, artist manager, and musician within the New Orleans hiphop community since 2008. She is a writer for the popular music website, The Smoking Section, and the Knowla Encyclopedia of Louisiana History, Culture, and Community.
- 1. Christopher Harter, "Help Support Amistad's Expansion of Music-related Holdings with Hiphop Collections," Amistad Research Center, December 3, 2013, http://amistadresearchcenter.blogspot.com/2013/12/help-support-amistads-expansion-of.html.
This month, Southern Spaces sent out our annual readership reports to authors who have published with the journal. These reports provide statistics on pageviews and unique readers over the past year. This year we also added cumulative totals for pageviews and unique readers since 2008, when we began tracking visits to our site with Google Analytics.
As a digital open access journal, Southern Spaces is committed to supporting our authors in communicating the value of their publications to tenure and promotion committees. Members of such committees may not have experience evaluating digital publications and may be inclined to undervalue them—even though, in our case, publications undergo the same rigorous standards of review as equally selective print journals. Southern Spaces pieces also have some advantages over print publications. Our site is well optimized for search engines, and we promote our publications to an interested audience through our Facebook and Twitter accounts. This ensures that many of our authors' pieces earn a wide readership.
We think that our readership reports attest to the benefits of open access publication and engagement with social media, and we hope they help convey such benefits to our authors and their tenure and promotion committees. In the hope of starting a conversation about how digital scholarly publications contribute to tenure and promotion, we are sharing details of Southern Spaces' readership reports process in this post.
|Southern Spaces visits, September 1, 2012–August 31, 2013. Screenshot from Google Analytics.|
The screenshot above illustrates daily unique visits to Southern Spaces over the past year. From September 1, 2012–August 31, 2013, we averaged about 11,250 visits per month, with a peak of 1,823 visits on February 4, 2013.1 Since 2008 our readership has increased every year. Our total this year of 135,192 unique readers represented a 15.6% increase over the previous year.
|Readership report email template, 2013. Courtesy of Southern Spaces.|
We extracted information on page views and visits from Google Analytics for each Southern Spaces publication. We sent each author an email to pass this information along. In past years we have drawn on Google Analytics to compile statistics on each piece's readers over the previous year. This year we decided that we would also send cumulative statistics demonstrating each publication's readership since we began tracking site visits in 2008. We are hopeful that this additional information will paint a more accurate picture of the wide readership and reach of many of our publications.
|Share bar for "North Carolina: A State of Shock" by Dan T. Carter, 2013. Courtesy of Southern Spaces.|
There are several ways in which we take advantage of the accessibility of our open access format to spread the word about our publications. We promote our pieces through social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, an RSS feed, and an email listserv. We hope that these efforts help bring the scholarly work in the journal to a broad readership that extends beyond the limits of the academy. We have recently added a share menu to the upper right-hand corner of Southern Spaces publications as a first step toward providing robust altmetrics for our publications. We also use our blog to discuss contemporary issues concerning the US South and the digital humanities, highlighting relevant Southern Spaces publications. Finally, we regularly feature past publications that speak to contemporary concerns in the "featured" section of our homepage, another way our pieces continue to find readers long after they are published.
|Southern Spaces tenure and promotion survey, 2013. Screenshot courtesy of Southern Spaces.|
In addition to highlighting statistics, we asked each author for feedback on how we might better measure and communicate the benefits of publishing in a peer-reviewed, multimedia, open access platform such as ours. In a three-question survey, we asked our authors to share their experiences using Southern Spaces publications for tenure and promotion and solicited suggestions for information or services we could provide to assist with this.
We consider our readership reports to be an important part of our advocacy for open access publishing. As these reports demonstrate, publishing in open access venues helps scholarship reach a large and engaged audience and facilitates dissemination across the social web. We hope that these reports help our authors gain academic credit for their open access and digital publications.
- 1. During the same period, Southern Spaces attracted roughly 14,000 pageviews per month, 167,587 in total.
On Monday, November 11, residents of the city of Atlanta were surprised to learn that their baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, will move to a new suburban stadium in 2017. When the lease on the team's current home at Turner Field expires in 2016, the Braves will move to a new ballpark at the northwest intersection of I-75 and I-285 in Cobb County.
|Turner Field, April 6, 2013. Photograph by Zpb52. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.|
The Braves moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966 and have played in downtown Atlanta ever since their arrival. Before they began playing at Turner Field in 1997, the home of the Braves was Atlanta-Fulton Stadium; this ballpark was demolished and transformed into parking spaces when the team moved to Turner Field. The ballpark was named after team owner and CNN founder Ted Turner, who purchased the team in 1976.
The Associated Press reports that the Braves have long expressed dissatisfaction with Turner Field. As Maria Saporta wrote in the Saporta Report, an absence of neighborhood development, limited parking facilities, and the fact that the closest Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station is a mile away contributed to the Braves' unhappiness with their current facility. Atlanta Braves vice president of operations Mike Plant stated, "We . . . recognize that what is insurmountable is we can't control traffic, which is the No. 1 reason why our fans don't come to more games. . . . We are underserved by about 5,000 parking spaces." Many Atlanta residents are concerned that the new stadium site will not be easily accessible via MARTA. As Edward A. Hatfield has noted, residents of Cobb County, an epicenter of suburbanization and white flight in the Metro-Atlanta region, have long opposed government spending on public transportation.
In a press conference and statement Mayor Kasim Reed explained the lack of an agreement to keep the Braves in downtown Atlanta, citing demands by the Braves for "hundreds of millions of dollars" in new infrastructure spending. Reed argued these would have left the city "absolutely cash-strapped" and exacerbated the current backlog of planned infrastructure projects. He also announced plans to redevelop the Turner Field site, promising "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had."
|Distribution of Atlanta Braves fanbase and location of Turner Field and proposed new stadium, November 2013. Map courtesy of the Atlanta Braves.|
|Percentage of metro Atlanta white residents by 2010 census block group, 2013. Data from Social Explorer.|
Forbes contributor Maury Brown claims that the new stadium will follow a current trend in stadium development in the United States. As teams build new ballparks with smaller capacities, ticket prices rise as demand increases. Furthermore, according to the Associated Press, census data reveals that the team is moving to a much wealthier area that is in the heart of the team's fan base. Median household income in the proposed area in Cobb County sits at approximately $61,000, with a poverty level of 8.6 percent. This contrasts dramatically with the median household income of $23,000 and nearly forty percent poverty level in the neighborhood around Turner Field.
|Centennial Olympic Stadium, 1996. Photograph by Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library, 1485.|
Originally called Centennial Olympic Stadium—the site was constructed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics—the stadium hosted athletics competitions and opening and closing ceremonies. S. Zebulon Baker and Kerry Soper noted in 2006, the tenth anniversary of the Atlanta Olympics, that its construction dramatically changed Atlanta, displacing the residents of Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Summerhill neighborhoods. An important piece of Atlanta's history, Turner Field has left an indelible mark on the city's cultural and economic landscape.
The Cobb County Braves»
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.