Derek H. Alderman, PhD 

Professor of Geography and Department Head, University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN

Regional Councillor (Southeast), Association of American Geographers

Past President, Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers (SEDAAG)

Past Co-Editor (with Scott Lecce), The Southeastern Geographer (peer-reviewed journal)

Co-Founder (with Bill Graves), Study of the American South Specialty Group, AAG

Co-Coordinator (with Carol Kline), RESET Initiative (Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism)

Email: or

 Vitae (Resume)

Electronic Copies of Selected Publications (through

A Street fit for a King? MLK Street Naming Resource (

I graduated with a PhD from the University of Georgia in 1998 with a degree in human geography.  I joined the faculty in the Department of Geography at University of Tennessee in 2012.  Previously, I held a tenured faculty position in Department of Geography at East Carolina University (from 2000-2012), a tenure-track position in geography and interdisciplinary studies at Georgia College & State University (1998-2000), a visiting position in geography at Georgia Southern University (1995-1996) and temporary faculty/graduate teaching positions at the University of Georgia (1990-1998).

In addition to serving as a faculty member in geography programs, I have worked with colleagues and students in several interdisciplinary programs, such as the Center for Sustainable Tourism (ECU), the  Coastal Resources Management Ph.D. Program (ECU), and the Center for Georgia Studies (GCSU).   At the University of Tennessee, I am affiliated with the Center for the Study of Social Justice and the Africana Studiesprogram.


I have taught several graduate and undergraduate courses in my career:

 Introductory level:

      Geography of Recreation: Cultural Geography of Leisure (East Carolina Univ.)

Global Issues and Society (Georgia College & State University)

Introduction to Geography (Georgia College & State University, East Carolina University)

      Introduction to Human Geography (University of Georgia)

      Peoples, Places, and Environments (East Carolina University)

Power of Place (Honors Course) (East Carolina University)

Resources, Society, and the Environment (University of Georgia)

World Regional Geography (Georgia Southern University)

      World Geography, Developed Regions (East Carolina University)


Upper-division, undergraduate

Cultural Geography (Georgia Southern University, Georgia College & State University)

Geographic Images (East Carolina Univ.)

Geography of American South (Georgia Southern University)

Geography of Tourism (East Carolina Univ.)

Historical Geography of the United States (East Carolina Univ.)

Political Geography (Georgia College & State University)

Urban Geography (Georgia Southern University)


Graduate level:

      Advanced Geographic Images (East Carolina University)

Cultural Geography (Georgia Southern University, Georgia College & State University)

Geography of American South (Georgia Southern University)

      Political Geography (Georgia College & State University)

      Seminar in Cultural Geography (East Carolina University)

Seminar in the Geography of Heritage (East Carolina University)

Seminar on Public Memory (University of Tennessee)

Topics in Cultural Geography (University of Tennessee)

Tourism Development (East Carolina University)

      Urban Geography (Georgia Southern University)

Teaching Related Honors: Distinguished University Teaching Achievement Award, NCGE (2002); Robert L. Jones Award for Outstanding Teaching, ECU (2004); Scholar-Teacher Award, ECU (2005); Distinguished Professor of Teaching Award, ECU (2005); UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, ECU (highest teaching award within UNC system) (2009).

 My Thoughts on Teaching as "Place-Creating" (Comments from Address to Fall Faculty Convocation, 2009, East Carolina University)


My research interests and expertise are in the sub-field of cultural and historical geography.  I explore topics related to the politics of space, culture, and representation in American popular culture, particularly symbolic landscapes and struggles in the southeasternUnited States.  My work builds upon and advances current geographic and social scientific theories.  I seek out and analyze unique but relevant historical and contemporary case studies, employing a range of approaches including archival research, narrative analysis, descriptive statistical analysis, and interviewing. I value scholarship that engages and assists governmnet officials, community activists and organizations, and the broader public.  I make myself available to the news media, having been quoted by outlets such as CNN, BBC News, USA Today, New York Times, CBS News, Ebony, American Online, The Discovery Channel, and The Associated Press.   

 Research Related Honors: AAG Meredith Burrill Award (2011); Urban Communication Foundation Journal Article Award (with Heather Ward) (2010); Globe Book Award (with Owen Dwyer), Association of American Geographers (2008); Research Honors Award, Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers (2006); Five-Year Research Achievement Award, East Carolina University (2006); J. Warren Nystrom Dissertation Award, Association of American Geographers (2000).

 Below are my major areas of published research

Downloadable copies of published reserach are available at


1. Geographies of Public Memory, Commemoration, and Heritage Tourism

My work recognizes the socially constructed and contested nature of commemorating the past and the importance that space, place, and scale play in memorialization and the heritage tourism industry.  Where a memorial is located is not incidental but actively shapes how people conceptualize and carry out the politics of commemoration and the larger goal of achieving social justice.  Much of the work in this area has focused on the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., examining the role of African Americans in naming streets for the slain civil rights leader, the controversies they face, and the ultimate locations which these named streets occupy.  I am particularly interested in understanding how place names serve as arenas for debating the meaning of King's historical legacy.  More recently, my work has expanded to address the politics of remembering (or forgetting) the history of slavery in the US South, particularly at antebellum plantation heritage tourism sites.  Much of my work on comemoration and heritage tourism is a sensitivity to the racial struggles and controversies that underlie public memory. 

 For more on this issue, see:

 Alderman, Derek H. and Joshua F.J. Inwood. 2013. "Street Naming and the Politics of Belonging: Spatial Injustices in the Toponymic Commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr." Social & Cultural Geography 14(2): 211-233.

 Alderman, Derek H. 2013. "History by the Spoonful in North Carolina: The Textual Politics of State Highway Historical Markers." Southeastern Geographer 52(4): 355-373. Contribution to special issue on pedagogical innovations in teaching memory (edited by Chris Post).

Alderman, Derek H., Paul Kingsbury, and Owen Dwyer. 2013. "Re-examining the Montgomery Bus Boycott: Toward an Empathetic Pedagogy of the Civil Rights Movement." Professional Geographer 65(1): 171-186. 

Alderman, Derek H., and Joshua F.J. Inwood. 2013. "Landscapes of Memory and Socially Just Futures." A New Companion to Cultural Geography, Wiley-Blackwell (edited by Nuala Johnson, Richard Schein, and Jamie Winders), pp. 186-197.

Moreau, Terri and Derek H. Alderman. 2012. "Graffiti Heritage: Civil War Memory in Virginia." Geography and Memory: Explorations in Identity, Place, and Becoming, Palgrave (edited by Owain Jones and Joanne Garde-Hansen), pp. 139-160.

Alderman, Derek H. 2012. Street names as Commemorative Landscapes: the Case of Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Landscapes in North Carolina (open access project directed by Fitzhugh Brundage and published by Carolina Digital Library and Archives).

Alderman, Derek H. and Owen Dwyer. 2012. A Primer on the Geography of Memory: The Site and Situation of Commemorative Landscapes. Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina (open access project directed by Fitzhugh Brundage and published by Carolina Digital Library and Archives).

Modlin, E. Arnold Jr., Derek Alderman, and Glenn W. Gentry. 2011. "Tour Guides as Creators of Empathy: The Role of Affective Inequality in Marginalizing the Enslaved at Plantation House Museums." Tourist Studies 11(1): 3-19.

Alderman, Derek H. 2010. " Surrogation and the Politics of Remembering Slavery in Savannah, Georgia." Journal of Historical Geography 36 (1): 90-101. 

Alderman, Derek H. 2009. "Virtual Place-Naming, Internet Domains, and the Politics of Misdirection: The case of" Critical Toponymies, Ashgate Press (edited by Lawrence Berg and Jani Vuolteenaho), pp. 267-283.

Alderman Derek. H. and Owen J. Dwyer. 2009. "Monuments and Memorials." International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Oxford: Elsevier (edited by Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift), Volume 7, pp. 51-58.

Alderman, Derek H. and Rachel Campbell. 2008. "Symbolic Excavation and the Artifact Politics of Remembering Slavery in the American South: Observations fromWalterboro, South Carolina." Southeastern Geographer 48(3): 338-355. Contribution to special issue "Museums, Narratives, and the Contested Memory of Slavery" (guest edited by Derek Alderman and E. Arnold Modlin Jr.).

Alderman, Derek H. 2008. "Martin Luther King, Jr. Streets in the South: A New Landscape of Memory." Southern Cultures 14(3)88-105.

Alderman, Derek H. 2008. "Place, Naming, and the Interpretation of Cultural Landscapes". In The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity, Ashgate Press (edited by Brian Graham and Peter Howard), pp. 195-213.

Alderman, Derek H., Steve Spina, and Preston Mitchell. 2008. "A Bumpy Road: The Challenges of Naming Streets for Martin Luther King, Jr." Planning 74(1): 18-21.

Dwyer, Owen J. and Derek H. Alderman. 2008. "Memorial Landscapes: Analytic Questions and Metaphors." GeoJournal 73(3): 165-178.  Contribution to special issue "Collective Memory and the Politics of Urban Space"(guest edited by Reuben Rose-Redwood, Derek Alderman, and Maoz Azaryahu).

Alderman, Derek H. and Preston Mitchell. 2007. "A Sign of Changing Times: A Street Renaming Lesson from Chapel Hill, North Carolina." Public Management  89(6): 37-38.

Mitchelson, Matthew, Derek H. Alderman, Jeff Popke. 2007. "Branded: The Economic Geographies of MLK Streets." Social Science Quarterly 88(1): 120-145.

Alderman, Derek H. "Naming Streets after Martin Luther King, Jr.: No Easy Road." In Landscape and Race in the United States, Routledge Press (edited by Richard Schein), pp. 215-238.

Alderman, Derek H. 2006. "Street Names as Memorial Arenas: The Reputational Politics of Commemorating Martin Luther King in a Georgia County." (Revised reprint of Historical Geography 2002).  In The Civil Rights Movement in American  Memory, University of Georgia Press (edited by Renee Romano and Leigh Raiford), pp. 67-95.

Alderman, Derek H. and Owen J. Dwyer. 2004. "Putting Memory in its Place: The Politics of Commemoration in the Post-Civil Rights Movement South." In WorldMinds: Geographical Perspectives on 100 Problems, Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers (Edited by Don Janelle, Barney Warf, and Kathy Hansen), pp. 55-60.

Alderman, Derek H. 2003. "Street Names and the Scaling of Memory: The Politics of Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. within the African-American Community." Area 35(2): 163-173.

Alderman, Derek H. 2002. "School Names as Cultural Arenas: The Naming of U.S. Public Schools after Martin Luther King, Jr."  Urban Geography 23(7): 601-626.

Alderman, Derek H. 2002. "Street Names as Memorial Arenas: The Reputational Politics of Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Georgia County."  Historical Geography 30: 99-120.

Alderman, Derek H.  2000.  "A Street fit for a King: Naming Places and Commemoration in the American South."  Professional Geographer 52(4): 672-684. In focus section "New Memorial Landscapes in the American South" (organized by Derek H. Alderman).


2. Geographic Images, Place & Media, and Landscape Inscription

 "Geographic Images" is a theme that recognizes the powerful role that place representation, media geographies, and landscape inscription plays in contemporary society, including the selling of tourist destinations in brochures, the reporting of people and places on the television news, the politics of place naming, and even the writing of graffiti.  My work in this area also focuses on understanding the relationship between global telecommunications media and traditional regional cultures such as the American South.  I have suggested in some of my research that the Internet can be conceptualized as a form of "electronic folklore" about people and places.  Most recently, my interest in place and media has expanded to include film-induced tourism and its social impact on destination communities .

 For more on this issue, see:

 Alderman, Derek H. and Arnold Modlin, Jr. 2013. "Southern Hospitality and the Politics of African American Belonging: An Analysis of Photographs in North Carolina Tourism Brochures." Journal of Cultural Geography  

 Benjamin, Stefanie K., Paige P. Schneider, and Derek H. Alderman. 2012. "Film Tourism Event Longevity: Lost in Mayberry." Tourism Review International 16: 139-150.

Alderman, Derek H., and Stefanie Benjamin. 2012. "Transforming Mount Airy into Mayberry: Film-Induced Tourism as Place-Making." Southeastern Geographer 52(2): 212-239.

Alderman, Derek H., Terri Moreau, and Stefanie Benjamin. 2012. "The Andy Griffith Show: Mayberry as Working Class Utopia and Dystopia." Blue Colllar Pop Culture, Praeger (edited by M. Keith Booker). Vol. 2, pp. 51-69.

Alderman, Derek H. 2012. "Cultural Change and Diffusion: Geographical Patterns, Social Processes, and Contact Zones." 21st Century Geography: A Reference Handbook (Vol. 1), SAGE Publications (edited by Joseph Stoltman), pp. 123-134.

Alderman, Derek H. 2012. "You Might Be Redneck If" New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Social Class, Vol. 20, University of North Carolina Press (edited by Charles Reagan Wilson), pp. 472-474.

Alderman, Derek H. 2011. "Internet Representations of the South." New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Media, Vol. 18, University of North Carolina Press (edited by Charles Reagan Wilson), pp. 114-118.

Rose-Redwood, Reuben and Derek H. Alderman. 2011. "Critical Interventions in Political Toponymy." ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 10(1): 1-6. Referred introduction to special thematic issue guest edited by the authors.

Moreau, Terri, and Derek H. Alderman. 2011. "Graffiti Hurts and the Eradication of Alternative Landscape Expression." Geographical Review. 101(1): 106-124. Contribution to special issue "Popular Icons of Political Identity" (guest edited by Pauliina Raento).

Rose-Redwood, Reuben, Derek H. Alderman, and Maoz Azaryahu. 2010. "Geographies of Toponymic Inscription: New Directions in Critical Place-Name Studies." Progress in Human Geography. 34(4): 453-470.

Alderman, Derek H., and E. Arnold Modlin, Jr. 2008. "(In)Visibility of the Enslaved within Online Plantation Tourism Marketing: A Textual Analysis of North Carolina Websites." Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing 25(3-4): 265-281. Contribution to special issue "Geography and Tourism Marketing" (guest edited by Alan Lew and David Duval).

Alderman, Derek H. and Heather Ward. 2008. "The Writing on the Plywood: Toward an Analysis of Hurricane Graffiti." Coastal Management Journal 36(1): 1-18.

 Gentry, Glenn W. and Derek H. Alderman. 2007. "Trauma Written in the Flesh: Tattoos as Memorials and Stories." In Narrating the Storm: Sociological Stories of Hurricane Katrina, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (edited by Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo and Kristen Barber), pp. 184-197.

Alderman, Derek H.  2006. "Rednecks, Bluenecks, and Hickphonics: Southern Humor on the Electronic Frontier." In The Enduring Legacy of Old Southwest Humor, Louisiana State University Press (edited by Edward J. Piacentino), pp. 261-278.

Alderman, Derek H. and Jeffery Popke. 2002. "Using Humor and Film in the Geography Classroom: Learning from Michael Moore's TV Nation" Journal of Geography 101: 228-239. Contribution to special issue on "Teaching Cinematic Geographies I" (guest edited by Leo Zonn).

Alderman, Derek H. and Eric J. Fournier. 1998.  "Finding the Southern Part of Cyberspace: Using the Internet to Teach the South." Journal of Geography 97(4/5): 213-227. Contribution to special issue "Teaching and Researching the American South" (guest edited by Gerald Webster).

Alderman, Derek H.  1997.  "TV News Hyper-Coverage and the Representation of Place: Observations on the O.J. Simpson Case."  Geografiska Annaler 79 B (2): 83-95.

Alderman, Derek H., and Daniel B. Good.   1997. "Exploring the Virtual South: The Idea of a Distinctive Region on the Web."  Southeastern Geographer 37(1): 20-45.


3. Cultural and Historical Geography of the American South

Much of my work is undertaken with the goal of understanding the cultural and historical geographies of the American South and the role of change, continuity, and contest in shaping the region's landscapes.  Borrowing a term from American Studies scholar Lothar Honnighausen, I study the South as a "value-charged symbolic space."  Underlying this research is an appreciation for the human agency and intentionality behind the construction of landscapes -- whether it involves analyzing tourist inscriptions on the wall outside of Graceland, public reactions to the expansion of Wal-Mart, the transcultural geography of NASCAR, or the production of racialized landscapes through TVA.

For more on this issue, see:

Alderman, Derek H. and E. Arnold Modlin, Jr. (forthcoming) ?The Historical Geography of Racialized Landscapes.? North American Odyssey: Historical Geographies for the Twenty-First Century (edited by Craig Colten and Geoffrey Buckley).

Alderman, Derek H. and G. Rebecca Dobbs. 2011. "Geographies of Slavery: Of Theory, Method, and Intervention." Historical Geography. Non-refereed introduction to special thematic issue guest edited by the authors.

Alderman, Derek H. and William Graves. 2011. "Innovations in Southern Studies within Geography." Southeastern Geographer 51(4): 505-512. Non-refereed introduction to special thematic issue guest edited by the authors.

Alderman, Derek H. and Robert N. Brown. 2011. "When a New Deal is Actually an Old Deal: The Role of TVA in Engineering a Racialized Jim Crow Landscape." Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Mega-engineering Projects, Volume 3, Springer (edited by Stanly Brunn), pp. 1901-1916.

Mitchelson, Ronald L. and Derek H. Alderman. 2011. "Mapping NASCAR Valley: Charlotte as Knowledge Community." Southeastern Geographer 50(1): 31-48. Contribution to special issue Economic Geography of the South (guest edited by James O. Wheeler).


Edwards, Mike B., Derek H. Alderman, and Steve G. Estes. 2010. "An Appraisal of Stock Car Racing's Economic and Geographic Development in North America: NASCAR as Flexible Accumulation." International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing 8(1/2): 160-179.

Mitchelson, Ronald L. and Derek H. Alderman. 2010. Red Dust and Dynamometers: Charlotte as Memory and Knowledge Community in NASCAR." Charlotte, NC: The Global Evolution of a New South City, pp. 50-86. University of Georgia Press (edited by William Graves and Heather A. Smith).

Alderman, Derek H. 2008. "The Politics of Saving the King's Courts: Why We Should Take Elvis Fans Seriously." The Southern Quarterly 46(1): 46-77.

Alderman, Derek H.  2007. "Social Justice in the American South." Southeastern Geographer 47(1): 86-91. Non-refereed introduction to 7 essay forum organized by Derek Alderman.

Mitchell, Preston, Derek H. Alderman, Jeffery T. Web, and Dustin Stancil. 2004. "When Wal-Mart Doesn't Come to Town: Competitive Responses of Established Retail Merchants in Edenton, North Carolina." Geographical Bulletin  46(1): 15-24.

Alderman, Derek H., Preston Mitchell, Jeffrey T. Webb, and Derek Hanak. 2003. "Carolina Thunder Revisited: Toward a Transcultural View of Winston Cup Racing." Professional Geographer 55(2): 238-249. 

 Jones, Kimberly L. and Derek H. Alderman. 2003. "Antiques Tourism and the Selling of Heritage in Eastern North Carolina." North Carolina Geographer 11: 74-87. 

 Alderman, Derek H. 2002. "Writing on the Graceland Wall: On the Importance of Authorship in Pilgrimage Landscapes." Tourism Recreation Research 27(2): 27-34.  Contribution to special issue on "Sacred Journeys" (guest edited by Dallen Timothy).

Good, Daniel B., Derek H. Alderman, and Delma Presley.  2001. "Tomato, Snap, and Fly: Postal Records and Place-Names in Local Settlement Histories."  Georgia Historical Quarterly 85(2): 227-244.

 Alderman, Derek H. and Robert M. Beavers.  1999. "Heart of Dixie Revisited: An Update on the Geography of Naming in the American South." Southeastern Geographer 39:190-205. 

 Alderman, Derek H.  1997.  "Integrating Space into a Reactive Theory of the Asylum: Evidence from Post-Civil War Georgia."  Health & Place 3(2): 111-122.  Contribution to special issue "Space, Place, and the Asylum" (guest edited by John Radford and Deborah Park).


4. Naturework, Biography, and Cultural Geography of Exotic Species

The theme of "nature work" focuses on how social actors and groups culturally define and represent their relationship with the physical, natural environment.  Nature does not exist in some universal state but can be viewed from multiple and sometimes competing perspectives.  I have employed the concept of "nature work" in writing about the cultural history and geography of kudzu, a fast growing, exotic vine found throughout the American South.  The plant exists on many different levels culturally, representing an irritant for some and an icon for others.  My work on kudzu is part of a larger concern about the role of discourse and claims-making in shaping environmental perception and action.  More recently, my attention has turned to applying a "biographical" analysis to kudzu, uncovering the life stories and narratives of the people who identify with the vine and attempt to shape its image and meaning. 

For more on this issue, see:

Eskridge, Anna and Derek H. Alderman. 2010. "Alien Invaders, Plant Thugs, and the Southern Curse: Framing Kudzu as Environmental Other through Discourses of Fear."  Southeastern Geographer 50(1): 110-129. Contribution to special issue "Political Ecology of the South" (guest edited by Ed Carr and Patrick Hurley).

Alderman, Derek H. and Donna G'Segner Alderman. 2008. "Kudzu: A Tale of Two Vines." In Southern Cultures: The Fifteenth Anniversary Reader, 1993-2008, University of North Carolina Press (Reprint of Southern Cultures 2001).

Alderman, Derek H. 2004. "Channing Cope and the Making of a Miracle Vine" Geographical Review 94(2): 157-177. Contribution to special issue on "People, Places, & Invasive Species" (guest edited by Paul Robbins).

Meindl, Chris, Derek H. Alderman, and Peter Waylen. 2002. "On the Importance of Environmental Claims Making: The Role of James Wright in Promoting Drainage of the Everglades in Early 20th Century Florida."  Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92(4): 682-701.

Alderman, Derek H. and Donna G'Segner Alderman.   2001.  "Kudzu: A Tale of Two Vines." Southern Cultures 7(3): 49-64.

Alderman, Derek H.  1998.  "A Vine for Postmodern Times: An Update on Kudzu at the End of the 20th Century."  Southeastern Geographer 38(2): 167-179.


Street Naming as a Civil Rights Issue

While the study of streets named for Martin Luther King, Jr. has long interested me, my current work seeks to create a closer dialogue between the study of place naming and issues of social and spatial justice and African American belonging.  Often, the politics of street naming is not just about honoring King, but it is also about publicly recognzing the importance and legitimacy of all African-Americans.  Specifically, I focus on how the struggle to name roads for King is part of a broader fight for public space in American cities and the rights of African American to have a voice in how they are remembered and represented within the larger city text.  I conceptualize King streets as not only monuments to the Civil Rights Movement but also extensions of the ongoing struggle for civil rights. I am particularly interested in understanding the obstacles that face street naming proponents and challenging what I perceive as unfair public policies and city ordinances that seek to limit the cultural expressions of African Americans.  As I am discovering, commemorating King along the nation's roadways exposes the continuing importance of traditional racial and economic boundaries and borders in communities, the elite, property-based interests that often direct city planning and development, the unwillingness of government officials to openly engage issues of race nad racism, and the legacy of transportation and environmental racism as it affects communities of color.  I am especially interested in making my research findings and perspectives available to public leaders, managers, planners, and activists as they seek to construct community strategies for dealing with the politics of honoring King with a street name. 

 Assessing the Representation of African Americans in Southern Travel Brochures: The Importance of Socially Responsible Tourism Marketing

 Few scholars have conducted a critical appraisal of the place of African Americans in the marketing of U.S. tourism destinations. My ongoing research carries out a critical content and discourse analysis of photographic and textual representations found in tourism brochures of the American South.  I am especially interested in a  visual analysis of brochures, a method that I chose based on research that points to the power of promotional photography in communicating meaning to tourists and framing their expectations.  Brochure photographs, according to Olivia Jenkins (2003), participate in a "circle of representation" that not only attracts visitors to destinations but help in perpetuating certain iconic views of places and people.  Visual analysis is used to determine which photographs include people and to determine the race of each person displayed in a photograph.   Preliminary research suggested that few brochures make African Americans a visible part of the southern tourist landscape.   This work on socially responsible marketing is part of a broader critique of traditional notions of southern hospitality that draws attention to the socially unjust ways that African Americans appear to belong (or rather not to belong) within depictions of the South's visitor and host communities.


 The Politics of Remembering Slavery in the American South: A Tale of Symbolic Annihilation, Symbolic Excavation, and Commemorative Surrogation

Traditionally, historic sites in the American South have not engaged visitors in critical discussions of slavery.  Some scholars have used the term "symbolic annihilation" to capture the manner in which these sites have failed to represent the identities and histories of the enslaved as they valorize the accomplishments and worldviews of whites.  Yet, there are early indications that this pattern has begun to change as tourists seek out and are offered fuller and sometimes traumatic representations of African American history.  In understanding how slave histories are resurrected and written into memorials, museums, and other public places of memory, it is perhaps useful to think about it as a process of "symbolic excavation."  The metaphor of excavation also prompts us to realize that the unearthing of difficult and long suppressed (and repressed) historical narratives can only happen through memory work, the active recovery and representation of the past. The reconstruction of the past, especially the painful memories of slavery, can also be understood as a process of commemorative surrogation--which requires the identification of a surrogate or signifer for the memory of the enslaved.  My work in this area attempts to identify the process and politics by which people annihilate, excavate, and find suurogates for the histories of enslavement, both in terms of representation, narration, and bodily performance of the memory of slavery and the identity of African Americans. 

On the Move: The Racialization of Mobility within the Historical Geography of African Americans

I am increasingly interested in the role of mobility, travel, and transportation in the African American struggle for social justice.  The United States experience speaks to the role of white supremacy in controlling and constraining African American mobility during slavery and the post-emancipation era.  The while also demonstrating the capacity of communities of color to construct counter-mobilities that were decidely anti-racist in nature, such as the Great Migration to the North and West and civil rights campaigns such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Freedom Riders.  At the same time, a transportation injustice continues to place obstacles in front of black travel and movement.  The idea is that movement is not simply about getting from point A to B but part of the larger emotional and political experience of the country's black population and a key tactic and civil right in the struggle for equality.  While the construction of alternative, if not insurgent, means of mobility was an important part of formal civil rights protests, the Negro Travelers' Green Book--a Jim Crow era travel guide--illustrates the everyday context of these counter mobilities and how the ability to safely move about and access the US economic landscape was also seen as essential to challenging white supremacy and the rise of the African American citizen-consumer.  My current work seeks to map and analyze the Green Book to understand the racialization of mobility in America's historical geography and use the archival resource as a platform for collecting Jim Crow journey stories from African Americans.


Last updated June 3, 2013



















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