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Jocelyn Neal

Jocelyn Neal, Center director and journal co-editor. (photo by Donn Young)

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Southern Cultures marks its 20th anniversary with a special celebration next April.

Are you a Southerner?

The question is too complex for a simple yes or no response. It can’t be answered in a binary way, contends Jocelyn Neal, co-editor of Southern Cultures journal.

“What do you mean by Southern? How long do you have to live here to assimilate? What does it mean to assimilate?” Neal asked. “These are questions our quarterly takes on.”

Founded in 1993, Southern Cultures celebrates its 20th anniversary alongside the Center for the Study of the American South. As part of the journal’s celebration, three of its four issues this academic year will coincide with a reception and speaker who will delve into a unique aspect of Southern life. The culminating event, a larger celebration, will take place April 12, 2014.

To augment the fall issue, “Remembering the Civil War,” Blain Roberts, associate professor of history at California State University, Fresno, will speak in September about attending Charleston’s Secession Ball.

In December, John W. Coffey, curator of American and modern art at the N.C. Museum of Art, will discuss a mystery surrounding a bust of former Vice President John C. Calhoun, expanding on a piece Coffey has written for the winter 2013 issue.

Suzanne Jones, chair of the University of Richmond’s English department, will give a talk in February on the phenomenon of the best-selling novel The Help to supplement her essay in the spring 2014 issue.

Contributing to the University-wide academic theme on water, Southern Cultures will publish a special issue, “Southern Waters,” in fall 2014, guest edited by Bernie Herman, George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore. The publication will coincide with an exhibit at the Center on a water-related theme.

Jocelyn Neal, Center director and journal co-editor. (photo by Donn Young)
Jocelyn Neal, Center director and journal co-editor. (photo by Donn Young)

UNC historian Harry Watson, Atlanta Professor of Southern Culture, co-founded Southern Cultures with UNC sociology professor John Shelton Reed, and has continued as its co-editor. Watson and Reed came up with a concept for a peer-reviewed journal that would interest a scholarly audience and lay readership equally.

“We wanted to start a conversation about what the region is and what it means today and over time,” Watson said. “There wasn’t any such thing when we got started, and now we’re the go-to place for people who have something to say about the U.S. South.”

Published by UNC Press for the Center, which has provided editorial support for the journal from the very beginning, the quarterly enjoys a rapidly growing readership. In 2000, Southern Cultures was made available online through Project Muse, a service that digitizes humanities and social science journals. Today, some 70,000 readers in more than 60 countries access the journal online.

In the early years of the journal, Watson and Reed had to beg their friends for articles. Fortunately, they had some very talented friends: Bland Simpson, Doris Betts, C. Vann Woodward, Shannon Ravenel, Hal Crowther. As the journal’s reputation grew, a variety of scholars submitted pieces. Interdisciplinary in its approach, the journal publishes diverse perspectives on anything Southern, from tobacco queens, blues music and Civil War monuments to whether NASCAR or football is the real Southern sport. Once, the quarterly printed a previously unpublished letter from William Faulkner.

SouthernCulturesjournalcoverspring2010The journal’s executive editor, Ayse Erginer, notes that the “s” in “Cultures” is intentional. “We don’t believe there is a monolithic Southern culture,” she said. “Southern Cultures writes about the complexity. People may think, ‘What can you possibly say about the South for 20 years?’ But we’ve just started.”

The quarterly’s popular themed issues immerse readers in exploring a topic from multiple perspectives. Music issues have included a CD culled from archives and not available for sale elsewhere. Professors draw on Southern Cultures as a primary source for their teaching.

The journal’s editorial staff is expanding multimedia use and digital offerings, with a project under way to make its full back catalogue available in e-book formats, all the while looking forward to the journal’s next 20 years.

“Anyone affiliated with the South should feel compelled to learn about it and figure out what’s going on, in our past and present, to take responsibility for shaping our future,” Neal said. “Southern Cultures makes the newest, most provocative research accessible to everyone.”

For details on upcoming events, visit,

[ By Nancy E. Oates]

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Preserving the Voices: Southern Oral History Program celebrates 40 years

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