Global South Fellows 2011

Cynthia A. Bouton, Associate Professor of History, Texas A&M University
“Subsistence, Society, and Culture in the Atlantic World in the 18th Century and Age of

“My project studies staple food production, marketplace interaction, entangled Atlantic trade networks, and government policies to understand adaptations to new food regimes in the French, Spanish, and British Atlantic during the 18th century and revolutionary era.  Focusing on how food functioned at local, regional, imperial, and trans-imperial levels—as opportunities for reciprocity, commodities, and markers of social identities (gender, ethnic, racial, class/status, generational)—offers a particular opportunity to see European, African, indigenous, and creole peoples engaging with each other and adapting their environments during their daily struggles for survival, standing, and justice.  New Orleans, as one site in this multi-sited project, offers an opportunity to map the subsistence and provisioning concerns of all three empires and their diverse populations onto a geography that included the Mississippi and trans-Appalachian west, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic and consider how they interacted over access to food, the land that produced it, and the problem of transporting it.” 

Christine Alice Croxall, Ph.D candidate, the University of Delaware
Holy Waters: Lived Religion, Identity and Loyalty along the Mississippi River, 1780– 1830

“The Gulf South throbs with vibrant, deep-rooted cultures.  Peopled by diverse groups, the region boasts a rich history of human interaction, conflict, compromise, exchange, and confluence.  Like their musical traditions and family stories, the inhabitants have inherited textured and varied religious practices from their forebears.  My dissertation examines the development of this multi-layered religiosity in the historical period between American independence and American dominance in the region.  I interrogate the links between residents’ lived religion – that is, their religious practices, rituals and behaviors, conveyed through material objects and cultural products – and their identities and loyalties, as they forged and reconfigured these between 1770 and 1830.  Drawing on missionary reports, journals and diaries, emigrant guides, and institutional records, my study focuses specifically on the towns and settlements along the lower Mississippi River.  By illumining how the diverse populations in the region reacted to and appropriated one another’s religious habits and beliefs, the project expands the story of American religious history.  Instead of inevitable evangelical triumph, it reveals dynamic intercultural contests and collaborations among Spanish, French, British, American, Caribbean, African, African American, and Native American animists, Catholics and Protestants.”

Lauren Lastrapes, Ph.D candidate, Planning and Urban Studies, the University of New Orleans
“Casa Samba: Identity, Authenticity, and Tourism in New Orleans”

“My dissertation research examines Casa Samba, an escola de samba that has been performing Brazilian carnival in New Orleans since 1986.  This samba school has been run by an American couple, Curtis and Carol Pierre, since its inception, and now includes the couple’s teenage son, Bomani, an emerging leader of the group.  This dissertation examines the ways in which the Pierre family interprets their adoption of Afro-Brazilian cultural practices, and the process through which they made this choice, in the context of their life stories. This research also establishes a relationship between the group’s Brazilian carnival practices, its self-definition as a traditional samba school, and Mardi Gras traditions that operate in a touristic economy that is based on the construction of authentic New Orleans experiences.  The tourist industry’s construction of potential visitors’ notions of an “authentic” New Orleans (Gotham 2007, Souther 2006) impacts Casa Samba in many ways. This dissertation interrogates the multiple, sometimes contradictory, meanings of Casa Samba as organization that attempts to preserve Brazilian cultural practices in New Orleans touristic economy, and the various ways that authenticity is negotiated.” 

 Chanda Nunéz, MA Candidate, Department of History, the University of New Orleans
“Comparative Study of Praline and Other Street Vendors in the Gulf South

“Women commonly sold goods on the streets of New Orleans and other Southern and Caribbean cities from the colonial period to the present. Forming a significant presence among these cities’ marketplaces, enslaved and free women sold various food items which included coffee, calas, and pralines. Perhaps the most popular of the African-American street vendors was the praline women. They attracted the attention of visitors as well as residents. Despite the popularity of these treats, the highly visible and enterprising praline vendors were simultaneously celebrated and caricatured by white observers who depicted them as “mammy” figures not only in store advertisements and logos, but also in everyday commentary. Having recently completed a thesis study of praline and other food vendors in New Orleans, I plan to expand my study by traveling to other Southern cities and also researching the Caribbean street vendor traditions via published sources. I will continue to make use of archival collections and record oral history interviews with pecan candy makers using broadcast-quality equipment. Travel will consist of a few automobile trips to Pensacola, Tallahassee, Mobile, Houma, Louisiana Oxford, MS, and one 4-day visit to archives located in Washington, D.C. “

 Tore C. Olsson, Ph.D candidate, Department of History, the University of Georgia
“Green Revolutions: Agricultural Science and Agrarian Politics in the U.S. South and Mexico, 1900-1970”

Scholars of global agriculture have long acknowledged the importance of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Mexican Agricultural Program (1943-1963) as providing the developmental model for the Green Revolution, America’s Cold War-era exportation of agricultural technology to the Third World.  But few scholars have linked this postwar campaign with the Rockefeller philanthropies’ first attempt at “rural reconstruction,” directed in the U.S. Deep South under the General Education Board (1903-1940).  Following the trail of the boll weevil as it traversed the Gulf South in the 1900s and ‘10s, Rockefeller and USDA agents pioneered a farm demonstration model that sought to teach scientific methods and modern business practices to both planters and sharecroppers.  A generation later in Mexico, the Rockefeller Foundation drew on the memory and mythology of its earlier southern work to wage a similar modernization campaign, which would ultimately be transplanted across the Third World.

“In both regions, Rockefeller agronomists imagined rural people as backward, tropical, and unknowledgeable, and sought to solve their social problems with technical, scientific solutions.  Yet for small farmers in both Mexico and the South, technocratic development eased neither poverty nor hunger, engendering instead rural outmigration, the expansion of agribusiness, and environmental degradation.  Ultimately, both regions became enmeshed in a transnational Sunbelt economy that exploited low-cost human labor to provide low-cost food and fiber to urban and suburban supermarket consumers.  But contrary to much recent scholarship, these transformations were the product of human contingency and politics, not technological determinism, as local elites and industrializing states co-opted the Rockefeller project for their own purposes. In narrating these two campaigns as threads of a shared transnational story, rather than a comparative study, I hope to argue that scientific agriculture offered both promises and perils to tenant farmers, campesinos, sharecroppers, and ejidatarios, and that the histories of the twentieth-century American South and the planetary South reveal much when placed in common conversation. The post-1945 project of ‘development’ may indeed have roots closer to home than many Americans might expect.”

 Kyle Shelton, Ph.D candidate, Department of History, the University of Texas-Austin
“Building a Global City: The Construction of Modern Houston”

“The unique geographic, economic, and demographic history of Houston, Texas makes it unlike any other major city in America. Because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, its large port, and its key role in the oil economy of Gulf region, Houston has developed into a crossroads for migrating peoples and become the center of an international commodity market.

“After World War II, Houston’s population exploded as migrants came from all over to capitalize on the area’s growing economy. The city’s changes disrupted old residential and economic patterns. New circumstances, citizens, and service demands, necessitated that the city government remake the physical world of Houston. Hoping to make the city into a modern metropolis that matched its economic and demographic growth, redevelopment of the downtown and connecting the city to its suburbs and industrial periphery, became top priorities. In pursuing these goals, however, officials and urban planners drastically reshaped the physical environment and mental landscapes of the city. The outcomes of these alterations often benefited suburban and industrial interests at the expense of central city neighborhoods and residents.

“By focusing on the politics and development of infrastructure and the built environment in Houston, my dissertation will argue that through the placement of highways and other public projects, the restriction of downtown spaces via stricter policing and limited access, and through civic policies that catered to mainly suburban and business interests, Houston veiled the discrimination and displacement of minority and impoverished groups in the downtown area while attempting to become the Gulf region’s premier urban center.”

Tulane University, New Orleans Gulf South Center, 112 Newcomb Hall New Orleans LA 70118 504-314-2883