Outlying Islands of Shrinking Dixie

The latest issue of Southeastern Geographer (Project MUSE subscription required) has an article by Shrinidhi Ambinakudige of Mississippi State University about changes in two “vernacular regions”: “the South” and “Dixie.” (Vernacular regions are those identified from popular usage.) Its abstract and its resumen (!) follow, along with a few excerpts.

Abstract: John Shelton Reed’s maps of the South and Dixie in 1970s and 1980s indicated the shrinking boundaries of these two vernacular regions. This study revisits the South and Dixie. Using electronic telephone directories, this study collected all business names with “Southern” and “Dixie” in all the cities in the US. A univariate local indicator of spatial association (LISA) analysis was used to identify the clusters of high and low values of normalized values of the terms. These analyses helped identify the current core regions of Dixie land and the South. The results indicate that “the South” and “Dixie” boundary erosion is noticeable. The study identified a previously unnoticed island of “Dixie” in Utah. Southern and Dixie identities are stronger in non-metropolitan counties compared to metropolitan and micropolitan counties. Southern and Dixie identities are eroding gradually: while the erosion of southern identity is very slow, the erosion of Dixie identity seems to be faster. Overall, it may be more appropriate to refer “Dixieland” as “Dixie islands” today, but the South is still the South.

Resumen: Los mapas del Sur y Dixie en los 70s y 80s de John Shelton Reed indicaron una reducción en los límites de esas dos regiones autóctonas. Este análisis estudia al Sur y Dixie. Usando directorios telefónicos electrónicos, este estudio recopila los nombres de negocios con “Southern” y “Dixie” en todas las ciudades de Los Estados Unidos. Un análisis univariable LISA (Indicador Local de Asociación Espacial) fue usado para identificar los conglomerados de valores altos y bajos de los valores normalizados de los términos. Este análisis ayudó a identificar hoy las regiones de Dixie Land y el Sur. Los resultados indican que la erosión de los límites del “Sur” y “Dixie” es notable. El estudio identificó en Utah una “Isla de Dixie” que no había sido notada anteriormente. Las identidades de Southern y Dixie son más fuertes en los condados no-metropolitanos que en los condados metropolitanos y micropolitanos. Las identidades de Southern y Dixie se están deteriorando gradualmente; mientras que el deterioro de las identidades del sur es bastante lento, el deterioro de Dixie parece ser más rápido. En general, sería mas apropiado referirse hoy a “Dixieland” como “Islas Dixie”, pero el Sur todavía es el Sur….

People’s sense of place creates a vernacular region. According to Jackson (1984), the sense of place is a permanent position in the social and topographical sense that gives people their identities. The sense of place can be perceived in both physical and cultural landscapes: it is embodied in folklore, personal narratives and oral histories—but very rarely do these descriptions appear in “official” documents, so locating the boundaries of these senses of places is difficult….

In this study, to delineate the boundaries of the South and Dixie, occurrences of the terms “South or Southern,” “American,” and “Dixie” in business names will be used. To ascertain the relative frequency of the terms “southern,” “south,” “American,” and “Dixie” appearing in the names of businesses, business names including any of these terms were used….

Only southern hot-spots, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Northern and Central Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, most of North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, part of California, the eastern part of Texas, are shown in Figure 1. Oklahoma also indicated a Southern identity. The Southern identity is still strong in most of these traditional Southern states; however, a gradual shrinkage is apparent, especially in North Carolina and Oklahoma. As Reed (1990) observed, many people in North Carolina now identify themselves as Easterners rather than Southerners. Southern Florida continues non-southern.

The top ten counties having the highest score of Southern to American ratio are listed in Table 3. Dixie County in Florida had the highest score, followed by Hall County in Georgia. Washington County in Utah also showed a significant Southern identity and ranked 6th among all counties in the US.

The top ten states that scored the highest Southern to American ratio are listed in Table 4; Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina are the top five States.

The LISA analysis redefined the boundaries of “Dixie”. The zip codes with high concentration of Dixie identity and high values of Dixie to American ratios are clustered (Figure 2). Unlike the results reflecting the Southern identity, Dixie seems to be eroding into “islands.” The results also identified two interesting Dixie core areas—one on the Utah/Arizona border, the other in Ohio (Figure 2). Washington County, Utah has historically maintained Southern and Dixie identities—it is known as Utah’s Dixie. According to Cahoon and Cahoon (1996), in 1857 a group of people from the South migrated to Utah, before the bitter fighting of the U.S. Civil War. These immigrants were asked to move to Southern Utah as it was reportedly a more fertile land to grow cotton. Another group consisting of Robert D. Covington and 28 Southern families joined the first group. These two groups formed Washington City. They built dams to provide water to irrigate their crops. To keep their Southern identity, they decided to name their land “Dixie;” later this became “Utah’s Dixie.” The actual reason for a strong Dixie identity in Ohio is unknown. It may be related to the fact that Ohio is the birthplace of Dan Emmett, writer of the famous song “Dixie.”


Filed under language, nationalism, U.S.

2 responses to “Outlying Islands of Shrinking Dixie

  1. Pingback: do Maryland residents consider themselves as "Southerners?" - (MD) - Page 29 - City-Data Forum

  2. Pingback: do Maryland residents consider themselves as "Southerners?" - (MD) - Page 30 - City-Data Forum

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