A Region in Spite of Itself

Omri Elisha

in Moral Ambition

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267503
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950542 | DOI:
A Region in Spite of Itself

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The chapter explores aspects of local history and perceptions of regional character that contribute to an indeterminate sense of place that defines how many residents of Knoxville, including socially engaged evangelicals, think about where they live and its need for urban renewal and (for evangelicals) spiritual revitalization. The discussion is grounded in a theoretical understanding of locality and regionality as contested and unstable categories, constructed in a dialectical tension between local ideologies and historical and structural circumstances that influence the complex social ordering of regional and national cultures. A great deal of social discourse in and about Knoxville is fixated on the enduring paradoxes of the city's history and culture, which have had the effect of producing a regional consciousness in which regionality itself is more of an open question than a solid fact. The chapter begins by describing Knoxville's peculiar culture of local pride, a mostly defensive posture that reflects feelings of inferiority and the city's ambiguous location in relation to popular regionalist paradigms. It then briefly links this back to a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of regionalist thinking for studying the U.S. South.

Keywords: Knoxville; spiritual revitalization; urban renewal; local ideologies; regionalism

Chapter.  9920 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology of Religion

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