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The work of southering: Internal orientalism in the U.S. and the moral landscape of uneven racism
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5123-1357
2012 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Scholars have long noted the role of the U.S. South as an internal Other in national discourse. Representations of the South have been understood as contributing to a privileged national identity. For about a decade I have considered the othering of the South as a case of internal orientalism, an analysis that has been inspired by Edward Said’s work on Orientalism. In the nearly 35 years since Said published Orientalism, scholars have introduced a bewildering array of new orientalisms, many of which have at best a tenuous link to Said’s conceptualization of Orientalism. This is perhaps at least in part Said’s own fault, as he was less than clear in defining “Orientalism.” In some cases, today’s orientalisms seem to equate to stereotyping and discrimination, a way of thinking of Orientalism that misses some of the key elements of this phenomenon. In response to this ambiguity regarding what orientalisms are, I use the example of the othering of the South to explore the limits of Orientalism. I introduce the term “southering” to represent the tradition of representing the southeastern states as an inferior region within the United States. Southering, then, contributes to internal orientalism but is not identical with it. Internal orientalism (“internal” because it occurs within the boundaries of a state) in the U.S. consists of the tradition of southering in the service of institutional power relations (especially in the realms of politics, economics, and culture), that are themselves grounded in orientalist knowledge-production. With this distinction between southering and internal orientalism in mind, we can see that southering (the othering of the South) has existed since before the founding of the United States as an independent state. I trace the beginnings of internal orientalism to the Civil War and Reconstruction and follow its evolution through the 20th century. Based on my research and that of others, it is safe to say that southering is still an important part of the discursive landscape in the U.S. The question that remains is whether we can rightly say that the power relations of internal orientalism are still extant.

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Human Geography
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-287528OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-287528DiVA: diva2:922885
Swedish Association of American Studies
Available from: 2016-04-25 Created: 2016-04-25 Last updated: 2016-04-25

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Jansson, David
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