Southern Trauma: Revisiting Caste and Class in the Mississippi Delta
Published in American Anthropologist, Vol. 106, No. 2, 334-345 (June 2004) at
Two classic ethnographies, Hortense Powdermaker’s After Freedom: A Cultural Study in the Deep South and John Dollard’s Caste and Class in a Southern Town, contributed to a “master narrative” of the Mississippi Delta and the South that viewed class largely through the lens of race. Their work contributed to the community studies and culture and personality traditions and became part of the public discourse of race in the United States. This article examines the institutional and theoretical frameworks within which they worked. We focus on three aspects of their work: (1) their definition of class that left race as the only salient social divide; (2) their portrayal of middle- and upper-class statements as normative; and (3) their uncritical use of data from elsewhere in the South to interpret their Indianola data. We report the events at the Yale Institute of Human Relations that led Dollard to publish before Powdermaker.