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Alabama Getaway

Alabama Getaway: The Political Imaginary and the Heart of Dixie

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Alabama Getaway
    Book Description:

    In Alabama Getaway Allen Tullos explores the recent history of one of the nation's most conservative states to reveal its political imaginary-the public shape of power, popular imagery, and individual opportunity. From Alabama's largely ineffectual politicians to its miserly support of education, health care, cultural institutions, and social services, Tullos examines why the state appears to be stuck in repetitive loops of uneven development and debilitating habits of judgment. The state remains tied to fundamentalisms of religion, race, gender, winner-take-all economics, and militarism enforced by punitive and defensive responses to criticism. Tullos traces the spectral legacy of George Wallace, ponders the roots of anti-egalitarian political institutions and tax structures, and challenges Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice's use of the civil rights struggle to justify the war in Iraq. He also gives due coverage to the state's black citizens who with a minority of whites have sustained a movement for social justice and democratic inclusion. As Alabama competes for cultural tourism and global industries like auto manufacturing and biomedical research, Alabama Getaway asks if the coming years will see a transformation of the "Heart of Dixie."

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3961-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    What makes Alabama Alabama? As for its political imaginary—the public shape of power, representation, and possibility that is the subject of Alabama Getaway—how is the state perceived? Is Alabama seen as encased in social amber like an ancient insect, stuck in repetitive loops of uneven development, rife with ol’ boy prejudices and debilitating habits of judgment, dishing out foreclosed futures to its young? Or does its political imaginary lag and belie the state’s active presence in the circulating currents of global capital, manufacturing, biomedical research, military R& D, cultural tourism, and human rights?

    A turn through modern Alabama...

  5. PART ONE Habits of Judgment

    • CHAPTER ONE The Sez-you State
      (pp. 21-64)

      It’s easy to make fun of a place where you can find To Kill a Mockingbirdon the library’s how-to shelves. Across the years, Alabama dependably delivers headlines and punch lines that fade into the next boldfaced outrage or televised fiasco. A reputation so constructed out of historical predicaments becomes easier to sustain than dismantle. Humiliations, obsessions, and grim revelations pile up, rendering a long list of bunglings, neglect, everyday iniquities, malfeasances, and atrocities: Jim Crow and the convict lease, lynchings, racist bombings and beatings, killings of homosexuals, church burnings, book bannings, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, interpositions, laughingstock politicians, whipping posts...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Punitive Habit
      (pp. 65-106)

      Shadowing Alabama’s political imaginary is what Avery Gordon calls the “fundamental sociality of haunting,” the proposition that “we are haunted by worldly contacts” that we’d rather step around or over than acknowledge. The punitive habit wears blinders, dismisses criticism along with dissident signs and conflicting evidence embodied by the unrecognized. Daily routine shuns these apparitions of the contrary, yet they lurk, worldly evidence of judgment upon the polity. Unacknowledged, shunted aside, these presences produce effects that invite comparison with specters and haunting due to the way that “systematic compulsions work on and through people in everyday life”—the way the...

  6. PART TWO Public Figures of Speech

    • CHAPTER THREE In the Ditch with Wallace
      (pp. 109-124)

      “I love it here,” an Alabamian told British journalist Gary Younge during one of the trumped-up crises in which a governor, this time Fob James, threatened to call out the state troopers and the National Guard to fight a federal judge’s ruling. “But when I think that people will look at that idiot and think that he represents us I just want to move.”¹ Stretching beyond memory’s horizon, trainloads of elected officials—governors foremost, but also senators, congressmen, and state legislators—have again and again hauled the freight of the bigoted and the dining cars of the privileged along a...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Oafs of Office
      (pp. 125-144)

      In January 1987, as the administration of Elder Guy Hunt began, Circuit Judge Charles Price, an African American Democrat appointed during the final Wallace term, considered the new makeup of the state’s executive and legislative branches: “They’re all in bed together. The Democratic Legislature now is controlled by the Business Council and the Farm Bureau and your very conservative pro-business elements. There’s not going to be any concern about minorities.”¹ For his part, Governor Hunt made only one black appointment out of some two-dozen cabinet-level positions.² As Price anticipated, thanks to Jimmy Clark, the conservative Democrat who was elected as...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The One-trick Pony and the Man on the Horse
      (pp. 145-180)

      The University of Alabama’s fraternity and sorority mansions are planted along Old Row and Magnolia Drive in Tuscaloosa, on a campus that “looks like a museum of plantation houses,” wrote faculty member Diane Roberts following the election of Don Siegelman in 1998. “Most of the buildings boast white columns, tall windows and satiny lawns.” They boast white residents as well. Delta Kappa Epsilon is the oldest of these Greek letter organizations, established by a couple of visiting Yalies in 1847.¹ With great expectations, the golden-haired Don Siegelman landed on the Dekes’ baronial doorstep in 1964. “Son of a piano salesman...

  7. PART THREE Stakes in the Heart of Dixie

    • CHAPTER SIX Black Alabamas
      (pp. 183-212)

      Across the years, strategies and strengths shifting with the possibilities for protest and change, the Black Alabama invoked by Selma’s first African American lawyer, J. L. Chestnut (1930–2008), has challenged state and local white regimes. For the Chestnut-minded, Black Alabama represents an activist polity attempting to perpetrate democracy in a historical locus of racist violence, foreclosure of possibility, repression, and economic inequity. Occupying moral high ground (but not without occasional feet of clay), black Alabamians have shaped a political imaginary in sharp contrast with that of the Heart of Dixie, emphasizing economic justice and an end to poverty, democratic...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Baghdad as Birmingham
      (pp. 213-232)

      Not even Bear Bryant, perhaps because he walked on water, could boast of a million-barrel crude tanker with his name on it. But from the mid-1990s until early 2001, the double-hulled Condoleezza Rice floated on a rising tide that lifted some boats far more than others. Its youthful namesake, fresh from service on George H. W. Bush’s National Security Council, joined the Chevron board of directors in 1991, armed with her knowledge of the former Soviet republics and the oil-rich Caspian region. Republican, African American, female, and native of civil rights crucible Birmingham, Rice was the public face of Chevron’s...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Invasions of Normalcy
      (pp. 233-272)

      Across recent decades, growing numbers of Alabamians have ratcheted up their critiques of the Heart of Dixie. Their raids on normalcy have taken many forms, from gender and disability-discrimination litigation, to challenging inequities in the state’s tax structure and the funding of education, to creating a National Voting Rights Trail and confronting the tenacious ghost of George Wallace. Citizen groups bang against the constitutional gearbox where the state’s governmental machinery remains jammed. Black Alabamians continue to press for economic justice and statewide democratic inclusion. Activists of many stripes, as well as critical journalists, artists, and musicians, sustain the march toward...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 273-278)

    The sound of Sez-you massed, revved, and capitalized? That would be more than 150,000 NASCAR fans and some four-dozen candy-colored stock cars inside the Talladega Superspeedway at summer’s end. Is this, as a New York Times writer claimed, a space for “the opposite of politics”?¹ Or are race weekends the Heart of Dixie’s last pit stop?

    In 2003 NASCAR dads, a pollster’s catchy term, were said to hold the keys to the November elections. The simplistic label attempted to capture a demographic of white men who worked with hands and machinery, cement and sheet metal, nail guns and electrical wire,...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 279-336)
    (pp. 337-346)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 347-364)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 365-365)