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238 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

New Directions in Southern Studies

ISBN  978-1-4696-1422-9
Published: April 2014

This Ain't Chicago

Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South

By Zandria F. Robinson

Awards & Distinctions

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Book Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, Division on Racial and Ethnic Minorities

When Zandria Robinson returned home to interview African Americans in Memphis, she was often greeted with some version of the caution "I hope you know this ain't Chicago." In this important new work, Robinson critiques ideas of black identity constructed through a northern lens and situates African Americans as central shapers of contemporary southern culture. Analytically separating black southerners from their migrating cousins, fictive kin, and white counterparts, Robinson demonstrates how place intersects with race, class, gender, and regional identities and differences.

Robinson grounds her work in Memphis--the first big city heading north out of the Mississippi Delta. Although Memphis sheds light on much about the South, Robinson does not suggest that the region is monolithic. Instead, she attends to multiple Souths, noting the distinctions between southern places. Memphis, neither Old South nor New South, sits at the intersections of rural and urban, soul and post-soul, and civil rights and post-civil rights, representing an ongoing conversation with the varied incarnations of the South, past and present.

About the Author

Zandria F. Robinson is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Memphis. She is coeditor of Repositioning Race: Prophetic Research in a Post-Racial Obama Age.


“Robinson critiques ideas of Black identity constructed through a northern lens and situates African Americans as central shapers of contemporary southern culture.”
--The Journal of Pan African Studies

“A welcome and even essential book. . . . Robinson convincingly shows that black Southerners no longer feel ashamed to embrace their Southern roots.”
--Chapter 16

“Highly recommended. Undergraduates, faculty, professionals.”

“Unfolds in magisterial fashion...A self-aware, distinctively southern perspective on the South that is often absent from urban ethnography.”
--American Journal of Sociology

“Sharply analyzed.”
--Middle West Review

"This Ain't Chicago is a fascinating exploration of the shifting contours of racial and regional identity in the post-civil rights era. Robinson shows that southern regional identity and culture provide insights into understanding something about cities and 'urban change.' The book offers a bridge between the worlds of southern studies, cultural studies, and urban theory."
--Bruce Haynes, University of California, Davis

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