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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections

Glocal Lounge

Emory University
Published August 7, 2012
Cover of Main Street and Empire by Ryan Poll, 2012.

From the beginning of Southern Spaces in 2004, we've understood this journal as participating in critical regional studies. Southern Spaces publishes work that represents and analyzes many souths and southern regions, offers critical scrutiny of any monolithic "South," interrogates historical developments and geographies over time, and maps expressive cultural forms associated with place. Perhaps our blog can serve as a site which takes notice of work in critical regionalism, wherever we find it. In the following excerpt from Main Street and Empire (Rutgers, 2012), a study of how the historical imaginary of the US small town contributes to the ideology of American empire, author Ryan Poll offers a quick overview of the term:

At the conclusion of his canonical essay, "The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," Fredric Jameson articulates what remains one of the most pressing challenges to aesthetic producers and critics: to develop texts that can help subjects understand and narrate how their everyday, local lives and spaces are dialectically bound to and enabled by global relations. Similarly the geography theorist and scholar Doreen Massey emphasizes the need to develop a "global sense of place." This project of thinking about the complex imbrications between the local and the global is one of the more productive developments in literary and cultural studies. In his 2001 article "Glocal Knowledges," the comparative literature scholar Robert Eric Livingston writes, "To grasp the scenarios of globalization requires resisting the impulse to set global and local into immediate opposition. Their intertwining may be made more helpfully understood [by means of the neologism ‘glocal,’ a concept that] . . . has the advantage not only of making visible the mutual articulation of our two spatial coordinates, but also of insisting, neologically, on the need for a more careful rereading of the means of articulation." One of the most exciting interdisciplinary means for thinking about the relation between the local and the global is "critical regionalism." The term, coined in the field of architecture in the early 1980s, challenges the dominant "fictions of globalization" (such as the global village) and instead uses local and regional sources to produce new narratives and geographic imaginaries by which to historicize and specify globalization. By attending to the local and the regional, we can see globalization not as a singular imaginary or community, but as a nuanced, complex, contradictory, and historically material process that is narrated and imagined differently depending on an individual’s—and a community’s—spatial location and position. In her important study, Critical Regionalism and Cultural Studies (1996), the literary scholar Cheryl Temple Herr writes, "Critical-regionalist-cultural studies has great potential for producing a unified but highly adaptive analysis of international flows at the local-regional level, towards the end of a more heterogeneous and tolerant future." Edward Watts, a scholar of American thought and language, writes that critical regionalism offers students a rich and robust methodology for thinking about globalization. . . . "We might," Watts offers, "teach our students to consider a text’s geographic placement as providing a nexus between the specificities of that setting and the larger issues at stake" (164).