Saturday, September 14, 2019

What is Southern Culture?

 This week will have guest bloggers from my Sociology Senior Seminar on Public Sociology.

            I remember the first week of my college like it was yesterday. I drove eight and a half hours from Pennsylvania with my mother. We are from a bigger city than where we were headed. Driving into Danville, at first, I immediately second guessed my decision because of the demographics and pure relative size of Danville. I had stepped into a town that, normally, at home we would consider to be “country” and “redneck” because of its small town, antique feeling it emitted.  I did not realize that to the citizens of Danville, and even Louisville and Lexington natives considered to be more refined than an actual country town, especially due to the prestigious nature of the college. My whole definition of southern towns was altered, and thus gave me hope for the next four years.
            The second week of freshman year was when everyone started to meet and co-mingle. During a conversation with a Kentucky Native they noticed that I had an accent and therefore, was not. This was news to me. I typically thought of an accent to be a country accent or an English accent. When prompted, I told them that I was from Pennsylvania. To this, they responded, “Oh you’re a Yankee!” This was the moment that I knew southern culture was real.
            I spent the rest of my three years here noticing what made me different from other people, specifically people from Kentucky (as they are pretty dominant on campus).  My natural route to graduation was to study this in any way shape or form I could. That form just so happened to be in the disciplines of Anthropology and Sociology.
            I had always compared my town to others, thinking that this is exemplary of what it means to grow up as a “Yankee”.  I had a narrow-minded view of my own culture. Harrisburg Pennsylvania was one of thousands of cities in the north, each with its own identity and culture. In the south, the major cities are far and few between. To me, cities are the hub of the surrounding groups of people. It is way easier to get information from a centralized source, than to get information from small local sources.
            When one thinks of the north and the south, one immediately begins with southern culture. This is always what I leaned on in conversations and comparisons, especially when I was explaining my school to people back home. They even aided in the fact that they would share similar experiences or thoughts that they had accumulated on southern culture. Typical things such as food, hospitality, specific dialogue, and customs, were front runners in our word-of-mouth data accumulation. If these things make up a southern culture, what makes up a northern culture?
            When one categorizes, like many do with southern culture, it does not work simply because northern food, hospitality, dialogue, and customs vary so much from each northern region. It is impossible to make assertions about what it means to have northern culture until northern culture is distinctly defined. I plan on doing this.
            My goals are to map out cultural boundaries. In order to do this, I need to look at both “concepts” in a historical lens, because this is what initially created these boundaries. Then, I plan on defining each culture in their own terms. I want to answer why these are separate boundaries, what made them separate, and what effect do they have now on American culture and life in general.
            I think the hardest part about all of this is to be able to set apart my preconceived bias and prejudice. It’s hard to do that when I’ve spent the last three years noticing what made me different. I have struggled a lot here at college, especially socially. I have always seen things differently, acted differently, and spoke different ways. It has been frustrating and frankly demeaning of my character because of how often I question if what I’m doing is wrong, or just wrong in southern culture aspects. I want to explore this, and ultimately find some peace of mind for myself and for anyone else who notices what I notice.

 Demi Kennedy

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