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Critical Studies of Southern Place

A Reader

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Edited By William M. Reynolds

Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader critically investigates and informs the construction of Southernness, Southern identity, and the South past and present. It promotes and expands the notion of a Southern epistemology. Authors from across the South write about such diverse topics as Southern working-class culture; LGBT issues in the South; Southern music; Southern reality television; race and ethnicity in the South; religion in the South; sports in the South; and Southernness. How do these multiple interpretations of popular culture within critical conceptualizations of place enhance our understandings of education? Critical Studies of Southern Place investigates the connections between the critical examination of place-specific culture and its multiple connections with education and pedagogy. This important book fills a significant gap in the scholarly work on the ramifications of place. Readers will be able to center the importance of place in their own scholarship and cultural work as well as be able to think deeply about how Southern place affects us all.
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Chapter Ten: The Averted Gaze: Representations of Race and the American South in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

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TEN

The Averted Gaze: Representations of Race and the American South in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

WAYNE PARTRIDGE

In Orientalism, Edward Said (1978/2003) argues that the West knows that it thinks it knows of the East not through any direct knowledge, but rather through narratives and accounts passed down from Western writer to Western intellectual to Western policymaker over the centuries. Much like the child’s game of telephone, in which the original message is badly garbled by the time the last person receives it, European “knowledge” of the Orient is decidedly distanced from the reality of the Orient; it is a construction tainted and twisted by Western biases, assumptions, and, sometimes, pure fantasy or wishful thinking. Even those Westerners who visit the East do not see reality, says Said, but instead project their expectations and assumptions upon what they see and hear, unwittingly (perhaps) coercing their perceptions to conform to an anticipated template, a “rather complex dialectic of reinforcement by which the experiences of readers in reality are determined by what they have read” (p. 94). Said identifies this faulty knowledge, this misinterpretation, misperception, and misrepresentation as the foundation for the power dynamic—Antonio Gramsci’s interpretation of hegemony (in Said, 1978/2003, pp. 6–9)—that locks the colonized under the control of the colonizer, long after the official end of the colonial period. Even the well-intentioned attention of European scholars “overrode the Orient” (p. 96), reducing it to a curiosity, reinforcing its...

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