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Vol. 27, No. 2: Built / Unbuilt

  //  summer 2021

This issue of Southern Cultures frames its theme, Built/Unbuilt, not so much around the transformation of contemporary sites, but around landscapes and modernities left glaringly incomplete. While many of these sites have come to be viewed as parts of ordinary landscapes, the issue’s theme allows us to identify and bring attention to how extraordinarily unfinished they remain.

Table of Contents

Front Porch: Built/Unbuilt

by Tom Rankin
I have always been drawn to those places that mark the landscape, serve as our monuments of remembrance and guide our way and knowledge of the local, seeming to last in our consciousness even when they have nearly disappeared on a return to their previous unbuilt state. “It’s over there where Cedric’s house used to »

A Symbolic Project

Dorton Arena's Incomplete Legacies

by Burak Erdim
Among the expected turkey legs, fireworks, cotton candy, and Ferris wheels, Dorton Arena presents a familiar yet extraordinary sight at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Defined by its double hyperbolic arches, the building looks like an alien spaceship and brings to mind similarly shaped structures in sci-fi flicks or at equally iconic contemporary sites, such »

Reptilian State

Florida at the American Museum of Natural History One Hundred Years Ago

by Henry Knight Lozano
“Frozen in space and time, its artificial landscape literally preserved Florida as a reptilian state on the brink of modernity.” In the summer of 1918, just over a year after the United States entered the First World War, a new exhibit opened at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. Thousands »

Monuments for the Interim Twenty-Four Thousand Years

by Annie Simpson
I. The K Reactor at the Savannah River Site (SRS) sits on the eastern bank of the Savannah River, facing west over six miles of woods and swampland, which remain uninhabitable for humans. The reactor is now a tomb for thirteen tons of plutonium, the highly radioactive fuel—and deadliest substance known to us—that powers hydrogen »
Photo Essay

How to Build a Home

by Cici Cheng
When I was six years old, my family and I packed up our life in four suitcases and left Sanming, my hometown, located in the western Fujian province of China. I didn’t know where I was going, and my parents didn’t know what they were expecting. All we knew was that we were moving to »

The Kinetic South

by Alex Hofmann
It was not supposed to end like this. On September 15, 1896, “Crush, Texas,” was supposed to be just another kinetic spectacle in a place replete with them. The name was a double entendre, both a cheeky allusion to the staged head-on train collision scheduled to take place there and an eponym for William G. »

Grant Park, Atlanta

An Old South Landscape for a New South City

by Steve Gallo
“Entering the park was like visiting an idealized past.” As Clement A. Evans, the Confederate general turned Methodist minister, mounted the makeshift pulpit and surveyed his surroundings on April 27, 1890, Atlanta’s Grant Park appeared more like a military camp than a public pleasure ground. Rows of white tents were erected on the greensward and »
Photo Essay

Something That Must Be Faced

Carrie Mae Weems and the Architecture of Colonization in the "Louisiana Project"

by Claire Raymond, Jacqueline Taylor
In her series (Untitled) Kitchen Table (1990), photographer Carrie Mae Weems explores and questions perceived notions of racial and racially gendered identity, using the familiar, everyday experience of a woman seated at a domestic kitchen table. Alternating between images of herself alone and with a male lover, child, or with other women, she figures the »

The Great Unbuilding

Land, Labor, and Dispossession in New Orleans and Honduras

by Deniz Daser, Sarah Fouts
When the body of Jose Ponce Arreola—one of three workers killed during the October 12, 2019 collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans—was finally removed from the hotel ruins in August 2020, the press asked his brother, Sergio, what should be built once the rubble was cleared. Sergio said, “A park dedicated to »

Eating Dirt, Searching Archives

Excavations from a Texas Woman

by Endia L. Hayes
Land of the sweet, never sour, Sugar Land, Texas, offers a surburban alternative outside the expanding Houston area.1 The city has gone by many names. In 1838, two years into the Republic of Texas’s victory over the Republic of Mexico, what is now Sugar Land was named the Oakland Plantation. Stephen F. Austin (the “Father »
Photo Essay

Latter-Day Paradises in the Cherokee National Forest

by John Lusk Hathaway, Mark Long
I. Geographer Dennis Cosgrove has written that American landscapes may best be apprehended from the air. So vast are US landscapes and, likewise, our interventions to rework them, that a vantage point at that level of remove is necessary to appreciate the scale of physical and human geographies here. Nowhere, perhaps, is that perspective more »

The Lake and the Landfill

In Search of Atlanta's Lake Charlotte

by Hannah S. Palmer
Lake Charlotte started to bother me one summer while I was working on a freelance project with a nonprofit called Trees Atlanta. Somewhere in the organization’s sunny building, I saw a poster illustrating Atlanta’s tree canopy—a kind of heat map of trees that needed saving. Red-orange blocks downtown sprawled into yellow-green neighborhoods and green parks. »

Make a fence

by Jessica Jacobs
said the rabbis, around the Torah. And this worldis lousy with them. More than we can counton our dog walk alone: chainlink and stone and white wooden pickets. Fences to keep people’s bad barking dogsin, to keep our bad barking dog out. His nostrils flaringwide as a twirled skirt as he reads the tales of »
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