The eleven nations of America
November 7, 2013 4:28 PM   Subscribe

"There’s never been an America, but rather several Americas—each a distinct nation. There are eleven nations today. Each looks at violence, as well as everything else, in its own way." "

Journalist Colin Woodard has divided the U.S. into eleven distinct "nations," and argues that prevailing attitudes about many social and political issues (along with plenty of cultural and linguistic markers) follow the outlines of his map. His eleven nations? Yankeedom, New Netherland, The Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, Deep South, El Norte, The Left Coast, The Far West, New France and First Nation.
The battlelines of today's debates over gun control, stand-your-ground laws, and other violence-related issues were drawn centuries ago by America's early settlers.
Woodard's 2011 book on the subject, American Nations, made its way onto both The New Republic's and The Globalist's Best Books of 2011 lists.

Some reviews of the book:
The Daily Beast
The Boston Pine Flag
The Wall Street Journal
posted by aka burlap (83 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
I finished his book recently and really enjoyed it: actually honestly could not put it down. It's one of those books where you just see everything a little differently afterwards. But his coverage of the West and the 20th century felt a bit thin. (I wrote a fairly long -- for me -- review on Goodreads.) I would love to read a follow-up book that got more in depth with those topics.

Or I might go read The Big Sort again, since it seems to me like that covered some of the same ground, but from a slightly different perspective.
posted by epersonae at 4:39 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I appreciate that they kind of tried with the Canadian part, but, yeah, no.

(For one thing, the Inuit are specifically excluded from the term "First Nations.")
posted by Sys Rq at 4:41 PM on November 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Occupying the New Orleans area and southeastern Canada, New France blends the folkways of ancien régime northern French peasantry with the traditions and values of the aboriginal people they encountered in northwestern North America. After a long history of imperial oppression, its people have emerged as down-to-earth, egalitarian, and consensus driven, among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy. The New French influence is manifest in Canada, where multiculturalism and negotiated consensus are treasured.

I have yet to see anywhere around here where they have blended the traditions and values of First Nations people, thanks. And yes to the tolerance of gays, but not so much with people of all races and multiculturalism.
posted by Kitteh at 4:44 PM on November 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's funny - he throws us all together, but I know almost nothing about the American West outside of old movies. Places like Montana, Colorado and North Dakota don't make the news much. Maybe we share geography, but there doesn't seem to be any shared culture.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:46 PM on November 7, 2013


I'm old enough to remember when there were only nine.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 4:53 PM on November 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Spoil this for me: what does he say about where Hawaii fits into all of this?
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:54 PM on November 7, 2013


A classification that says that Massachusetts (where I lived for eight years) is culturally distinct from Montgomery County, MD (where I grew up) but in the same bucket as Madison, WI (where I live now) is listening to culture on a different frequency from the ones I can hear.
posted by escabeche at 4:54 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read Joel Garrreau's book around 1981. Is this any different?
posted by Mad_Carew at 4:55 PM on November 7, 2013


"I have yet to see anywhere around here where they have blended the traditions and values of First Nations people, thanks."

Mardi Gras Indians.
posted by klangklangston at 5:02 PM on November 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Not in my part of New France.
posted by Kitteh at 5:04 PM on November 7, 2013


Towards an ever-closer union, chaps!

More seriously, I am fascinated by the durability and mutability of culture in changing - often drastically so - circumstances, I've stood in the ruins of Lachish, which the Assyrians took from the Kingdom of Judah in c7 BC in a fairly spirited attempt to quash the Jews... and yet, in the 21st century, despite every damn thing, the lineal descendants of that culture are still very much with us. But of the pre-Roman tribes of my own lands in the south-west of Britain, good luck finding anything more than a few mute traces and some hints in the place names.

What's particularly intriguing about the tribal affiliations of the USA - and I mean tribal in the broadest sense, not just the First Nations - is that so much is so well documented. The melting-pot theory works only up to a point, but now we're pretty much at the controls of the whole planet the luxury of leading separate lives is increasingly expensive. If America has a real leadership role in the next few decades, it'll be if it charges at those problems head-on and wrassles them to the ground.
posted by Devonian at 5:04 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You could make an argument that it was all those attempts to destroy them that made the survivors so determined to protect Jewish culture. The irony is that it's history's winners that usually vanish. Powerful and complacent in the short term, they don't develop the qualities that ensure survival over centuries.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:14 PM on November 7, 2013


The stubborn insistence on giving all the cultural credit to the white people who first immigrated to each area really turned me off. I grew up in Greater Appalachia, lived in Tidewater for a time, and now live in the Deep South. There are a lot of black people in all those places. Many of them have contributed to the culture there (please note the ironic understatement there). And the whole damn country continues to be shaped by more recent waves of immigrants from all over the world.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:15 PM on November 7, 2013 [14 favorites]




The map seems to divide Canada as well, not just the U.S. as the post indicates. I do wonder about a description that says Ontario doesn't favour top-down government control.
posted by maledictory at 5:18 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought, for a moment, this said "the Elven nations of America." Is it wrong of me to be disappointed, even while finding this more interesting?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:31 PM on November 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


"San Francisco isn’t in the same country as Lakeside anymore than New Orleans is in the same country as New York or Miami is in the same country as Minneapolis."

"Is that so?" said Shadow, mildly.

"Indeed it is. They may share certain cultural signifiers—money, a federal government, entertainment—it’s the same land, obviously—but the only things that give it the illusion of being one country are the greenback, The Tonight Show, and McDonald’s."

-American Gods
posted by officer_fred at 5:31 PM on November 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yeah..the Canadian divisions are half assed and the " far west" is missing some important granularity - the Scandinavian Luthertern upper Midwest, Salt Lake's Mormon enclave ( which , using his metrics, skews way more collectivist than the surrounding areas, for church members) and I think El Norte, such as it needs, needs to be a little bigger in all directions. New Meixco and Arizona have become so different as to be hostile rival countries.
posted by The Whelk at 5:34 PM on November 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is awfully lazy history. It attempts to transpose our contemporary, equally-lazy categories of more/less tolerant, bohemian/traditional, individual/collective, onto a past filled with contradictions. Using "red/blue counties," a category invented in the 2000 election, is an absolute crime against historical research.

It's not insightful to note that America isn't one monolithic entity - of course there are peculiar regional identities, and I'm not just saying that because I'm from Florida! And as other users have said, this completely paves over the experiences of those who complicate these tidy narratives. Offhandedly saying "because of slavery" black experiences are "different" misses the colossal, devastating fact that it's white Americans who enslaved them! "Yankeedom's" history is as inextricably connected to slavery as the Deep South.

Any American historical theory that does not mention "white supremacy," that treats minority experiences as "that thing you mention in the last few pages of the chapter," is bad history. Irresponsible history. This is like using "It's a Small World" as your thesis on globalization.
posted by gorbweaver at 5:38 PM on November 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


I feel like Utopian New England religious movements need like ...more space? Cause they all loved the idea of the west as a new forinter to build new types of civilizations, you know once the government got rid of everyone living on said land.
posted by The Whelk at 5:43 PM on November 7, 2013


Just a data point, here, but I think they got one thing very much correctly here, and that was linking most of Indiana with the Appalachian South. I grew up in Indianapolis, and half my ancestors migrated there from the South. The other half made their way there from Bavaria (in the 18th Century) through Pennsylvania and Ohio/northeast Indiana. A trope of mine I'll repeat to anyone willing to hear it is that Indianapolis is the Northernmost City of the South, and this depiction to my mind just nails that interpretation.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:43 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


( and coastal regions are always going to be more connected to each other then their interiors because of trade.)
posted by The Whelk at 5:44 PM on November 7, 2013


Albion's Seed might be a good place to start, before reading this.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:49 PM on November 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you like this, definitely read The Warmth of Other Suns about the migration of black americans out of the south. I read this right after 11 nations and it is AMAZING.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:53 PM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've read the book and I don't get the hate - he had to stop delineating somewhere, and he goes over that fact in the book.

I was a little off-put with the ignoring of black culture, but I think the reality is that the black folks had effectively zero say in the foundational myths of any region of the US and that's what he's covering. A separate chapter on black culture would have been good.
posted by MillMan at 5:53 PM on November 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


There is NO way you can lump all those states into the Far West. If there was an east/west line drawn halfway through, maybe. Even then...
posted by BlueHorse at 5:58 PM on November 7, 2013


[opens article in new tab]
[before switching over, sees from early metafilter comments that the article also deals with Canada]
[excitement]
[looks to his left, at his full set of Newfoundland coins on display in his office. The oldest is a quarter from 1917. The most recent is a dime dated 1945]
[thinks of his parents and his mentors, some of whom held Newfoundland passports as children]
[thinks some more of how, for a time, not too long ago, Newfoundland actually was another separate nation of North America]
[returns gaze to article]
[ctrl+f "newf"]
[nothing]
[scrolls down]
[map cuts off midway through Nova Scotia. Newfoundland is well beyond the margin]
[sighs]
posted by erlking at 6:23 PM on November 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Newfoundland wasn't so much a nation of North America, as it was the last direct British possession in the north Americas. Or the last Irish possession?

This map also blatantly forgets Desert. The Elders of New Zion would be greatly displeased at being lumped into the same Far West as the Albertans and Texians.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:27 PM on November 7, 2013


This is just goofy
posted by KokuRyu at 6:30 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


( and coastal regions are always going to be more connected to each other then their interiors because of trade.)

Why is New Netherland confined to the immediate New York City area? This is the group that built the Eerie Canal and spread it's political and economic influence far into the Great Lakes region while New England's westward expansion was mostly hemmed in by the northern Appalachians (the Hoosac Tunnel wasn't finished until 1875!)
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:36 PM on November 7, 2013


Apocryphon: Newfoundland was self-governing from 1855 (with a Parliament and a Prime Minister), and received Dominion status in 1907. Between 1907 and 1934 Newfoundland was as much a nation as Canada was during the same period. It was acknowledged as an autonomous nation in the 1932 Statute of Westminster alongside Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Irish free state. It "temporarily" reverted to a colony in 1934 because of a debt crisis; the return of independence post-World War II went a little awry, et voila, here we are today.
posted by erlking at 6:47 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's annoyinghow little recognition Colorado gets for keeping pace with California on progressive issues and sometimes even getting ahead, like with legal marijuana though we have a lot of digging to do economically after going true blue in 2008. Like Washington we have plenty of rural folks and a major city (Colorado Springs) that leans conservative, but the main cities that matter on any meaningful national level representing the Metropolitan center are Denver, Aurora, and Boulder, often called "the people's Republic of Boulder" because they regulate things and everyone wants to buy property there despite its supposed draconian librulness. I worked with a Seattle native who didn't really see Colorado as any more backwards than Washington, but we have plenty of white bread suburbs and small cities where it's very acceptable to openly talk about religion and politics among coworkers in a way that would make Denver and Seattleites uncomfortable alike. OK, it's because they openly talk about backwards kooky things we don't agree with, but still, my friend was put off by that aspect because we both worked in a more conservative area.
posted by lordaych at 6:56 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


This map also blatantly forgets Desert.

I think you meant Deseret
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:00 PM on November 7, 2013


By his own analysis Nova Scotia should be part of Greater Appalachia instead of Yankeedom.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not surprisingly, black Americans have it worse than whites. Countrywide, according to Healy, blacks die from assaults at the bewildering rate of about 20 per 100,000, while the rate for whites is less than 6. But does that mean racial differences might be skewing the homicide data for nations with larger African-American populations? Apparently not. A classic 1993 study by the social psychologist Richard Nisbett, of the University of Michigan, found that homicide rates in small predominantly white cities were three times higher in the South than in New England. Nisbett and a colleague, Andrew Reaves, went on to show that southern rural counties had white homicide rates more than four times those of counties in New England, Middle Atlantic, and Midwestern states.

I'm somewhat skeptical of this. The categories "predominately white cities" and "rural communities" seem like they might disguise socioeconomic and educational disparities that make a real causal difference here. But I take it the argument is not that poverty cultures instantiate "honor cultures" more frequently, and the South instantiates poverty cultures more frequently, but that the south instantiates honor cultures directly in a zeitgeist-y way. I'm not completely deaf to this thought, but it's an awful lot to swallow that the best explanation of the violent crime data is a theory of regional temperament that more material explanatory categories can be just sort of washed out of.
posted by batfish at 7:08 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Putting Quebec and New Orleans in the same bucket basically ruins the credibility of this analysis for me. It's a great illustration of the fact that cultures change. You can't just look at the attitudes that people's ancestors had 200 years ago in order to group them into categories today. Certainly in terms of attitudes to the role of government, the regulation of firearms, the equality of gays, many Canadians have much more in common with each other than with most of the Americans who they're variously grouped together with (though there are certainly regional variations within Canada).
posted by Dasein at 7:25 PM on November 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


...and anyhow it's Guadalajara, not El Norte.

He does imply--correctly, I think--that not all the little nuggets in the melting pot actually have gotten around to melting. The American Stew is still pretty lumpy. We seem to be getting lumpier all the time.

I've thought for a long time that some of the places (where I've lived) were more like foreign countries than simply different states. Actually, one place I lived (Massachusetts) was like a different goddam planet.
posted by mule98J at 7:28 PM on November 7, 2013


Newfoundland was the only region that until recently was an actual distinct political entity, but as a cultural entity I don't know if it was so vastly different from new Brunswick or Nova Scotia. Somewhat different, certainly. How different compared to, say, Arizona, I suppose is a matter where there could be a legitimate difference of opinion.
posted by GuyZero at 7:29 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are obviously a lot of ways that we differ, but there are also a lot of ways that we're the same, and we tend to take those for granted. North America is really an overlay of various nations with different cultures and levels of privilege. As a white Canadian male, I can go any place in Canada and maybe take a bit of a ribbing about my accent or my dislike of hockey, or whatever, but I'll still fit in fine with whatever class is most like mine. And there will still be an underclass to whom I am indistinguishable from the rest.
posted by klanawa at 7:29 PM on November 7, 2013


An increase of two since The Nine Nations of North America was written.

Seriously, how is this article not just a total ripoff of book?
posted by miyabo at 7:34 PM on November 7, 2013


Wait, DC is in Tidewater, but it's making it less Tidewater because it's not really Tidewater? Then what is it?

I've only spent real time living in three cities in the US (DC, Bmore and LA) and this map doesn't make any sense regarding my cultural experience in any of them.
posted by rue72 at 7:51 PM on November 7, 2013


I live on the Colorado/Wyoming border, and the only region I really know is "The Far West". I love reading these summaries every time someone comes out with some new classification system; it brings me joy to see flatlanders be so wrong.
posted by DGStieber at 8:15 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like you need a slice for "Fedland" or something, cites and regions built for and by the federal government. Colorado's many military bases totally occupy a different mindset and mythology then the surrounding area.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 PM on November 7, 2013


Albion's Seed was much closer to my personal experience, developed merely by traveling about all the lower 48 and most of Canada, rather than statistics... Perhaps because its author was not warping everything to fit his prejudices/preconceptions with the object of explaining why the "good people" can't eliminate those cursed guns?
posted by bert2368 at 8:40 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


A classification that says that Massachusetts (where I lived for eight years) is culturally distinct from Montgomery County, MD (where I grew up) but in the same bucket as Madison, WI (where I live now) is listening to culture on a different frequency from the ones I can hear.

You don't see the similarities between Boston/Cambridge and Madison?
posted by slkinsey at 8:59 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This subject comes up every few years here. (And I always find it interesting.) 2005. 2008. 2010.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:13 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've lived in 5 of the 11.

Including Winnipeg Manitoba with Las Vegas Nevada and Calgary Alberta is fucking hilarious as each of those locations are population centers with very few residents in the surrounding areas and each are quite different from one another.

Interesting to note is that the atomization is by county in the US but becomes nebulous in Canada. I'd love to see the source for the data. I don't know if the map was generated by The Author though.

The article and map are useful as a starting point I suppose.
posted by vapidave at 9:37 PM on November 7, 2013


What about the bicoastal city-state of Portlandia-Brooklyn? (Brooklandia?)
posted by gottabefunky at 10:09 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I'm somewhat skeptical of this. The categories "predominately white cities" and "rural communities" seem like they might disguise socioeconomic and educational disparities that make a real causal difference here."

Yeah, kind of, but that'd be something I'd imagine would get answered pretty handily if we could read the paper — I don't think it's inconceivable that there are predominantly white cities in both the North and South that have similar levels of educational attainment and poverty.

Rural might be harder to suss out, but I'd bet some definition based on population and agricultural zoning would give you data you could compare at the county (or township or whatever) level.
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 PM on November 7, 2013


Are you sure this isn't Gregg Easterbrook writing under a pseudonym?
posted by converge at 12:10 AM on November 8, 2013


Isn't there an electronic dimension not visible on such two-dimensional maps? People continue to have a few family and friends they see in the flesh regularly, but these geographical clusters are no longer isolated in terms of communication. Americans no longer read a local newspaper but they (or 85 percent of them, anyway) have many invisible acquaintances with whom they interact all the time on the net, and this has been going on long enough to have changed attitudes. If the big conversations are happening between distant and mutually invisible people, not across kitchen tables and back fences, I'm sure it messes with any neat little theories about how geography determines "prevailing attitudes about many social and political issues" in the US. Is MetaFilter part of (or the capital of?) some invisible (mostly) American nation? What are the internet nations of America and of the world?
posted by pracowity at 1:01 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Austin is at the intersection of the Deep South, Greater Appalachia and El Norte. Being totally confused we decided we were actually on the Left Coast...
posted by jim in austin at 5:06 AM on November 8, 2013


He completely missed BibleAndGunsAmerica.
posted by jefflowrey at 5:29 AM on November 8, 2013


...and anyhow it's Guadalajara, not El Norte.

Huh? Guadalajara is a city about 900 miles into Mexico, about at the furthest south extent of his delineation of "El Norte." Do you mean "Aztlan" maybe? Or maybe he should be referencing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo?

I think any broadscale delineation into regional identities (especially ones that don't follow clear administrative or geographical boundaries) is going to be rough and partial. There's truth to it, in that the culture of, say, Portland is clearly different than that of a small farming town on the Georgia border.

These delineations work a lot less well for edge cases, though, both for places near the edges of each area and for places within an area that are less fully expressive of that culture. So while certainly Portland and Seattle are within his Left Coast area, both have plenty of suburbs that probably have more in common culturally with suburban Atlanta, suburban Phoenix, or other places like that.

I'd also take strong issue with some of his boundaries (he drew the Far West much too large, for example, and El Norte too small, as was mentioned above) but I don't think the fundamental rightness or wrongness of his idea really hinges on geographical accuracy.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:33 AM on November 8, 2013


Wow, as someone from Toronto the map seems like a pretty exaggerated attempt to throw Ontario in with 'the Midlands'. I guess it makes sense though, due to our German ancestry and suspicion of government, as opposed to in Yankeedom, where they prize socialist projects and have a British-colonial heritage.

Right.

At least he managed to peg Quebec as like, French and stuff. that deserves a medal for sure. It's also easy to see from this map that I would have more in common with people from Pittsburgh, and Montrealers with people from New Orleans, than we would with each other.

What is this crap exactly? Man, I have to say, it's better to be ignored by Americans than to be an afterthought. With all due respect to, what is an all probability the vast majority of, American mefites who have some understanding of Canada, Americans really have to start accepting that Canada is a different country with a different history, and it's not just some cosmic mistake that we didn't end up as some members of the united states. Tabernac.
posted by Alex404 at 6:10 AM on November 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


The "Deep South" does not extend that far south into Florida, in my experience. In fact, you could almost call a strip of Florida "The Midlands" because it's basically settled by retirees and when I moved to St. Louis, the accents people had were pretty much identical to what I was used to.
posted by Foosnark at 6:17 AM on November 8, 2013


Map seems kinda wacked to me. If Las Vegas and Bismark ND are considered the same culture/nation/whatever you might as well say Madison WI and San Fransisco belong together. Or how about Nashville and Detroit, Austin MN and Twin Falls ID?

TBH I think in general there is a greater rural/Urban cultural divide then there is a divide between geographical areas of the US. Nashville is a lot more like Minneapolis then it is to some random place in TN 100 miles out.
posted by edgeways at 6:25 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am extraordinarily grateful that large numbers of people have a group consciousness at the state level, rather than a system like this.

I firmly believe that if the political divisions in our country were neatly aligned along state borders, we'd already be in a shooting civil war.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:02 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Toronto doesn't feel particularly German, but if you drive an hour west the picture changes. E.g. Kitchener (formerly New Berlin), New Hamburg, St. Jacobs (formerly Jakobstettel). Looking back at my own ancestors in Upper Canada from the early 19th Century none of this surprises me. However, the "suspicious of government" bit does.
posted by maledictory at 7:04 AM on November 8, 2013


Oh boy, this is hillariously bad.

There's no Jewish (after 17th century Sephardim), Mormon, or Catholic cultural influence in America?

You don't see the similarities between Boston/Cambridge and Madison?

They are similar, but they're both liberal university/government enclaves. Neither is representative of the state as a whole.

We get Unitarianism as a cultural force in Yankeedom, but not the Irish Catholicism which it coexisted with. (And the Irish/German split in the 19th century American Catholic Church is part of what makes the upper midwest different than the northeast.)

What about the Franco-American/French Canadian influence in Maine and NH? (The writer lives in Maine and he missed this?)

No mention of the migration of black people to northern cities after the Civil War?

No mention of the Russians or even more shockingly the Chinese(!) in the history of immigration to the West Coast?
posted by Jahaza at 7:06 AM on November 8, 2013


My personal addition to the "ways in which this map doesn't make sense to me" was the dividing line between the Deep South and Tidewater running East-West across North Carolina. I grew up in Craven County, which by that map is in the Deep South, but if I was a county north of there, I would be in the Tidewater, which feels really wrong. The divisions there are east-west (well, really, east-middle-west), not north-south.

That said, I understand that a map aiming for making continent wide sense might get North Carolina wrong, even though we're obviously the most important part of the continent.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:10 AM on November 8, 2013


An increase of two since The Nine Nations of North America was written.

Seriously, how is this article not just a total ripoff of book?


Well, Woodard mentions The Nine Nations of North America in the article, and criticizes its approach as "ahistorical." Whether Woodard succeeds where Garreau failed is certainly debateable, but Woodard at least acknowledges The Nine Nations and attempts a different approach.

But I guess you didn't get that far in the article.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did we ever find out why Adam Lanza killed all of those children?
posted by stormpooper at 7:30 AM on November 8, 2013


I understand the southern "y'all" better when I remember that "vous" (French for "you all" i.e. "you" in the plural) is considered the most polite way to address a stranger.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I enjoy the fact that someone is thinking critically about America's cultural geography, I had my immediate suspicions that this author came from the Northeast.

Sure enough, he's from New England. How else can you explain his complete unfamiliarity with the American west?

My state (Arizona) gets to feel the effects of this unfamiliarity. The popular national narrative is that my state is all tea party, all the time. It's all desert, supposedly, and it's all flat stretches of nothingness with lots of AC and tumbleweeds everywhere.

The AC and open country may be true, but the rest is not (I always shock East Coasters when I tell them that Arizona has three fairly large cities outside Phoenix that almost always swing liberal).

You could say the same for California, which is unfairly split into "Nor Cal" and "So Cal," when in reality, I can think of at least four or five very distinct cultural regions in Southern California alone. Anyone who lumps them together is ignorant and has been watching too much TV.

I appreciate the theory and the conversations this has inspired, but this is misguided and drastically oversimplified, and the author is letting his background shine through.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2013


What would actually be interesting, is rather than such arbitrary redrawing of borders, something which overlays a series of cultural influences on to North America, so that we might see a multifaceted pictures of the similarities and the differences between its various parts. Some of these regions might be ethnic (british, jewish, native, etc...), others religious (catholic, protestant, err... jewish?), others perhaps based on Myers Briggs or whatever else.

Something like this accent map is what I have in mind. Actually, right away I feel like this map is a fair bit better at communicating cultural regions as well. At least it tries to objectively map a phenomenon which would be based on patterns of interaction and exchange between peoples. Rather than say, how one person from one part of one country would like to pigeon hole everyone else.
posted by Alex404 at 7:44 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I understand the southern "y'all" better when I remember that "vous" (French for "you all" i.e. "you" in the plural) is considered the most polite way to address a stranger.

The lack of a specific form for the plural second person is a weakness in the English language, which Southerners have addressed elegantly, as we typically do. Now, if we could just get everyone to see the light on double modals and stop looking at me funny when I say that I "might could" do something.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:45 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


The lack of a specific form for the plural second person is a weakness in the English language, which Southerners have addressed elegantly, as we typically do.

Man, in this case I so agree. In Toronto we're part of the 'you guys' solution, which is, quite simply, terrible. Y'all is fantastic, but unfortunately it sounds rediculous if I say it, so I have to stick with what I've been given.

What the hell is a Might Could though?
posted by Alex404 at 7:52 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I prefer the megaregion maps at America 2050 (which I'm surprised have never been an FPP). They're more ahistorical, sure, but they more strongly reflect economic, transportation and (to some degree) cultural similarities. From there one could probably tease out ethnic and migratory influences, and similarly, views on violence and institutional control that Woodard seems to aim towards in the FPP article (don't know about the book).

As an aside, articles and mental exercises like these make me strangely long for the break up of the United States. Maybe "long" isn't quite the right word, as such a secession would surely be preceded by massive violence and instability.
posted by slogger at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Toronto we're part of the 'you guys' solution, which is, quite simply, terrible.

I hail from T.O. as well and I've started to say "y'all" anyway (without the drawl mind you, so I distinctly say "you all"). Let's make it happen!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:57 AM on November 8, 2013


One of my favourite dialectical features of Newfoundland English (or the subdialect spoken where I grew up) is the use of "ye" as a second-person plural. Growing up, I had no idea it might sound weird for someone to yell "well, fuck ye, then!" when pissed off at a group of people.

More to the original topic: Acadia/Acadie should probably be one of these nations of North America, too. They're also French, but there are important cultural, linguistic, and historical differences from Quebec.
posted by erlking at 8:12 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


What the hell is a Might Could though?

It means "I would perhaps be able to do that," it's used to make could more conditional. "I could pick up beer for the party" means "I can definitely do this if you ask," "I might could pick up beer for the party" means it's possible, but not a guarantee. Similarly, "I might should" means "maybe I should," and "I used to could" means "I used to be able to."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I used to could" means "I used to be able to."

No.
posted by Alex404 at 8:18 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I used to could means more "I used to do that thing" rather than used to be able to do it.
posted by syncope at 9:26 AM on November 8, 2013


Naw, I'm pretty sure it means used to be able to. I have only ever heard it in the context of "I've gotten older", or "I have more responsibilities now".
I used to could drink all night and not have a hangover.
I used to could run a mile in 9 minutes.
Etc.
posted by domo at 10:14 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure "I used to do that thing" is just "I used to," the could implies that now you can't, not just that you don't.

"I used to could drink all night and not have a hangover" would be pretty much the precisely perfect usage for me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:16 AM on November 8, 2013


New Meixco and Arizona have become so different as to be hostile rival countries.

Completely true.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:49 AM on November 8, 2013


The compulsion to split up America into different major political/social/racial/religious/linguistic major divisions always fascinates me, not only for recognition of the very different political and social differences that inform not only the hot-button issues of the day but also the day to day realities of life, but also the suggestion--explicit or implicit--that these divisions should be formalized. (Remember, for example, the "Jesusland/United States of Canada" maps after the '04 elections.)

Back in the 1980s, there were no less than three comics series based on this premise: Give Me Liberty by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons, Scout by Tim Truman, and Captain Confederacy by Will Shetterly and Vince Stone. The first two are set in near-future dystopias in which America breaks apart following environmental degradation, and the third is in an alternate history in which a Confederate victory in the Civil War results in several nations in North America. As with alternate histories in general, it's always fun to see where on the plausibility/bogosity continuum the worldbuilding falls; Miller and Gibbons' series was more satirical in intent, Truman's more serious and with mystical elements, and Shetterly and Stone' series more serious social commentary, but with the highly unlikely plot point that the actors portraying the patriotic superhero of the title and his sidekick and adversaries were given a real super-soldier formula (with the unforeseen side-effect of giving random psychic powers) simply to make them look better on screen.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:34 PM on November 8, 2013


speaking as someone who lives bang in the middle of a region in flux (Colorado) I can tell you there is a HUGE polar dichotomy in both politics and socioeconomics going on here in the Rockies. And it is in flux partly because of the fact that the "old school" farming/mining/ranching/oilmen conservative interests (which represent "old money" and mainly corporate right-wing interests here in CO) are becoming increasingly marginalized and driven out by "outsiders" (i.e. wealthy liberals from both coasts) and because it's a place young, hip, liberal, highly educated people want to live, the money has been just pouring in from the recreational / travel / high tech sector for the past few decades (and legal weed will only speed up this process tbh) AND OH BOY HOWDY ARE THE OLD GUARD PISSED OFF ABOUT IT and if there's one thing that will make for nasty, bigoted, horrendous politics it's a lot of oil and gas money being thrown at the situation to see that "them damn libruls" don't take over. It ain't over yet, not by a long shot.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2013


if there's one thing that will make for nasty, bigoted, horrendous politics it's a lot of oil and gas money being thrown at the situation to see that "them damn libruls" don't take over

Well, then it's definitely correct to lump Colorado in with Alberta.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:49 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


selfmedicating -- I'm going to take that recommendation, since I keep hearing good things about that book AND I think that particular migration is something where 11 Nations is really weak.

Joey Michaels -- he leaves out Hawaii entirely. (And Alaska. And most of Florida.)

Having read the book: he does go into more depth on some of the things people have wondered about, but the West is definitely a weak spot, and the impact of migrations & technology since the mid-20th century is pretty much missing. And I'm sure there's lots of places that aren't quite right that I just don't know that well, having lived all my life in California & Washington.

I now have this theory about LA being a fractal of his 11 nations, that I haven't quite put together all the way.
posted by epersonae at 4:28 PM on November 8, 2013


Sys Rq that's probably because they're closely geographically tied to each other (both are essentially half Plains / half Rockies IIRC) with all the varying demographics and economic diversity that that entails, plus they have similar "frontier" backgrounds.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:28 PM on November 8, 2013


Having read and reread Garreau's "Nine Nations" several times since it first came out, I don't see how it can be called ahistorical. Just because he doesn't explicitly recap the histories of each of the nine (which would have made it into an unwieldy tome), it doesn't mean what he wrote about each wasn't informed by a great deal of background historical research. For instance, now that i've been resident in Québec for a few years, I still find a lot of his observations from 30 years ago of how the place got to be the way it is, over the centuries, to be pertinent. His definition of New England including the Maritimes (I have ancestors from both) also rings true, even accounting for the differences between Yankees and United Empire Loyalists (it's interesting having ancestors on both sides of the American Revolution), as does his geographic outline of Ecotopia, where I also lived for 12 years.

It's fine to refine Garreau's initial groundbreaking attempt at making sense of the real geocultural divisions on the continent, but I'm skeptical of any revisions that don't give him his due.
posted by Philofacts at 12:13 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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