The Tacky South

deadline for submissions: 
March 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Monica Miller and Katie Burnett
contact email: 

As a way to comment on a person’s style, the word “tacky” has distinctly southern origins. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it first emerged around 1800 as a noun to describe “a poor white of the Southern States from Virginia to Georgia.” Although the OED does not draw connections between this origin and the origins of the adjective describing something “dowdy, shabby; in poor taste, cheap, vulgar,” these definitions suggest a clear link between national stereotypes of region, race, and class and urbane (and northern urban?) notions of taste, class, and sensibility.

This edited collection will use these observations regarding the term’s origin to ask new questions about how southern culture and identity have been and continue to be associated with “tackiness.” For instance, in what ways are questions of taste and class still bound up with regional identification? Or, how do “lowbrow,” popular representations transmit and recreate images of the South and southern history? Should we be suspicious of the celebration and enjoyment of southern tackiness at both the popular and scholarly levels? What power structures emerge from labeling something as “tacky” or the implementation of tackiness as an aesthetic mode? Ranging from the rise in popularity of southern-themed reality shows and tourist attractions, to mainstream media’s attempts to address topics such as slavery and civil rights, often the specters of class, race, and region still linger in contemporary notions of what registers as tacky, particularly in the way it refers to things that are cheap, vulgar, common, and unsophisticated.

By March 30, 2019, please submit 500-word abstracts and a short, 100-word bio to Katie Burnett, Fisk University (kburnett@fisk.edu) and Monica Miller, Middle Georgia State University (monica.miller@mga.edu). Formal proposals to the publisher will then go out; accepted proposals will be expected to submit a finished essay of ~5,000 to 6,000 words by May 1, 2020. Feel free to send queries with any questions regarding proposals (including feedback on ideas) at any time.