The Resilience of Southern Identity

Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People

By Christopher A. Cooper, H. Gibbs Knotts

152 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 maps, 10 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5216-0
    Published: February 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3105-9
    Published: February 2017
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3106-6
    Published: February 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5140-6
    Published: February 2017

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The American South has experienced remarkable change over the past half century. Black voter registration has increased, the region’s politics have shifted from one-party Democratic to the near-domination of the Republican Party, and in-migration has increased its population manyfold. At the same time, many outward signs of regional distinctiveness have faded--chain restaurants have replaced mom-and-pop diners, and the interstate highway system connects the region to the rest of the country. Given all of these changes, many have argued that southern identity is fading. But here, Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts show how these changes have allowed for new types of southern identity to emerge. For some, identification with the South has become more about a connection to the region’s folkways or to place than about policy or ideology. For others, the contemporary South is all of those things at once--a place where many modern-day southerners navigate the region’s confusing and omnipresent history.

Regardless of how individuals see the South, this study argues that the region’s drastic political, racial, and cultural changes have not lessened the importance of southern identity but have played a key role in keeping regional identification relevant in the twenty-first century.

About the Authors

Christopher A. Cooper is professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University.
For more information about Christopher A. Cooper, visit the Author Page.

H. Gibbs Knotts is professor of political science at the College of Charleston.
For more information about H. Gibbs Knotts, visit the Author Page.


“Cooper and Knotts aptly demonstrate that regional identification remains one of the central ways that most residents of the American South think about their place in the world, as somewhat distinct from that of their immediate and more distant neighbors. ”--The Journal of Southern History

“Many have argued that in an age of increasing contact, mobility, and homogenization that regional identities are becoming a thing of the past, but here Cooper and Knotts demonstrate that cultural distinctiveness is frequently enhanced by contact with other subcultures and has allowed people to define and redefine what it means to identify as southern in the second decade of the twenty-first century.”--Scott Huffmon, Winthrop University

“In The Resilience of Southern Identity, political scientists Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts examine how southerners continue to hold onto a regional identity despite the region’s dramatic population growth and diversification. This sea change, they argue, has opened new and distinct ways for both white and black southerners to think of themselves as southern. For anyone wanting to better understand the nuances of the contemporary South, this is the book.”--Ferrel Guillory, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill