"It won't shock readers of Southern Cultures to learn that when northerners begin to study the South, they bring along what we'll just agree to call misconceptions."
It won’t shock readers of Southern Cultures to learn that when northerners begin to study the South, they bring along what we’ll just agree to call misconceptions. I know this firsthand because I remember a few choice and painful moments in my own early apprenticeship as a South-watcher. Born and raised in a suburb of Boston, educated in eastern schools, I approached my first graduate-school research trip to the South in 1990 with a mixture of fear and exotic expectation, as though my upcoming week in Wilmington, North Carolina, were a trek to Machu Picchu during the heyday of the Shining Path. I remember finalizing hotel arrangements over the phone and then declaring with some awe, “They have speed-dial!” The fellow student to whom this discovery was reported, a Missourian, fixed me with a disdainful glare and reminded me what I’d forgotten: “North Carolina is in the United States.”