Gender and the Southern Body Politic
Edited by Nancy Bercaw
A re-examination of history through the unique lens of gender
In recent years an exciting new branch of scholarship has contributed to revising our understanding of politics and history. Expanding our definition of southern politics, a new generation of historians is challenging us to reconsider the most hallowed subjects in southern history -- the origins of slavery, Bacon's Rebellion, the Nullification crisis, the origins of the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Lost Cause, Populism, and Jim Crow. Taking gender as a lens of analysis, these subjects are envisioned in a new light.
As Gender and the Southern Body Politic examines literature and art, labor and law, manhood and womanhood, the historians contributing to this volume argue that politics is not limited to the machinations of parties, candidates, and voters. Instead, they suggest that private matters -- family, home, and sexuality -- are integral to the construction of public power. Focusing on gender and ranging from the colonial period to the present, these essays explore the politics of memory, masculinity, domestic violence, political obligation, the male body, and affirmative action.
In revising southern political history, each author challenges our conceptualization of history itself. Jacquelyn Hall calls for a new form of writing that questions the tired boundaries of public and private and that "emphasizes not our expertise but our common condition, writing that troubles the boundaries between poetics and politics, memory and history, witnessing and writing, acting and research."
In questioning politics, these and other new-thinking historians have opened our eyes to fresh ways of seeing and practicing the art of history.
These papers were presented in 1997 at the at the University of Mississippi.
Nancy Bercaw is an assistant professor of history at the University of Mississippi.