What's in a Region? Deciphering Red and Blue America
Speaker: Nicole Mellow
Date: May 4, 2007
Time: 12:30 PM
Nicole Mellow, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Williams College
Much attention has focused in recent years on the partisan fireworks of "red states" versus "blue states." While it's all well and good to focus on the play of regional politics on the national scene, what exactly is a region?
Drawing on the insights of two distinct theoretical traditions, which depict regions either as products of economic forces or of cultural practices, this paper reconceptualizes region as the site where material reality fuses with prevailing local symbols and interpretive patterns, in an ongoing and adaptive manner, to inform inhabitants' experiences. This recasting not only provides the most leverage for understanding contemporary politics but also clarifies why regions are enduring political phenomenon despite continual social and economic change. This is an important issue that has been missed both by students of regions and by the prevailing literature on partisan polarization, which ignores regions altogether. Mellow concludes with some of the difficulties that regional differences in a two-party system present for national administration.
Mellow, a former Miller Center Fellow, is an assistant professor of Political Science at Williams College. She is currently investigating the regional sources of modern partisanship for a book, tentatively titled The State of Disunion: Geography and Partisanship in Postwar America. Tracing the ways that regional economic, racial, and cultural divisions have affected party coalition building and overall party conflict in the last forty years, the book makes the claim that regions continue to be politically significant because they fuse the material and ideational experiences of their inhabitants in distinctive ways. Mellow received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and her B.A. from Vassar College. Topics include: Election 2008; McCain; Obama.