This paper argues that an appreciation of the effects of ‘southering’, or the identity discourse of internal orientalism in the U.S., is key to understanding the historical interpretation provided at plantation museums and the challenges associated with narrative transformation at these heritage sites. An analysis of two plantation museums in Louisiana shows that efforts to transform the whitewashed narratives that fail to account for the psychogeography of southering (as reflected in the ‘Southern’ deep story) might prove counterproductive. One solution to this problem is the spatial contextualisation of plantation slavery as not only a regional but also a national and global institution – a contextualisation that is both historically accurate and also has the potential to disarm ‘Southern’ defensiveness through its explicit acknowledgement of the ‘guilt’ and participation of whites in the system of slavery throughout the U.S. (and even globally). What we ultimately argue for is the need to transcend southering, a binary discourse that creates a moral landscape of uneven racism (racist ‘South’/enlightened ‘North’) while at the same time privileging the agency of whites and occluding African American history and agency.
Eldar, Doron, and David Jansson. “Southering and the Politics of Heritage: The Psychogeography of Narrating Slavery at Plantation Museums.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 0, no. 0 (December 1, 2021): 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2021.2009537.