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Title page for ETD etd-07242007-162825


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Thompson, Ashley Blaise
URN etd-07242007-162825
Title Southern Identity: The Meaning, Practice, and Importance of a Regional Identity
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Gary Jensen Committee Co-Chair
Larry J. Griffin Committee Co-Chair
David Carlton Committee Member
George Becker Committee Member
Peggy Thoits Committee Member
Keywords
  • ethnicity
  • race relations
  • stigma
  • identity
  • South
Date of Defense 2008-05-31
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
In this dissertation, I use data from 65 in-depth interviews with black and white residents of the South to explore southern identity using three inter-related conceptualizations: 1) as an ethnic identity, rooted in a sense of ancestry and cultural distinctiveness, 2) as a stigmatized identity, and 3) as a racialized identity most often associated with whites in the region. In general, my study indicates that most longtime residents of the South, both black and white, considered themselves to be southern. However, white southerners place more importance on their regional identity than black southerners. Because white respondents place little emphasis on their racial identity, they seem to use or understand their regional identity in ethnic or quasi-ethnic terms. The ethnic analogy does not appear to work as well for black southerners. Black southerners place greater importance on their racial identity, which suppresses their sense of regional identification. Further, I found that both black and white southerners believe that Americans living outside of the South look down on the region and its people. Nonetheless, black and white southerners have positive views of their own regional group and dismiss larger, negative cultural constructions of the South as untrue. Somewhat in contradiction to Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theory, southerners are willing to claim what is often considered to be a negatively-valued identity. In fact, the sense of being stigmatized appears to bind southerners together as a group.

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