Wednesday, April 30, 2014

American Nations among dueling maps at Washington Post

There's been a lot of talk about what America's real political regions should be on the internet of late, with Nate Silver's 538 weighing in on the Midwest and South, and the Washington Post's The Fix taking on the continent. Needless to say, I joined the fray on Twitter to argue there's never been a Midwest or a single South, proffering the American Nations map.

I've been enjoying the ensuing discussion on Twitter this afternoon -- tune in to @WoodardColin to join in the debate. As so often happens these days, that discussion has now gone full circle, landing on the webpages of the Washington Post a short while ago with this piece on the dueling maps, including the American Nations one. It's good fun, so join the discussion there.

I made the point to Nate Silver early on in these discussions that the reason so many people disagree with him that Pennsylvania is in the Midwest is because there is no Midwest. The Keystone State is instead divided amongst three regional cultures -- the very cultures in fact that make up the "Midwest", but which have very little in common with one another. For more on Pennsylvania's regional divide, a heartily recommend this recent article on that state's linguistic divides over at Slate.

And as to what region in Delaware should be in -- the question that kicked off much of this debate -- the answer is: if it must be in just one, the Midlands has the population advantage, much as it does in Maryland, so if you must use state boundaries, both states would land in that sloppy category called the "Mid-Atlantic." (That's shorthand for "States Dominated By the Midlands or New Netherland or a Combination Thereof That Happen To Lie On The Eastern Seaboard.")

Friday, April 25, 2014

NBC Releases "Crossbones" Trailer

Crossbones, the NBC drama inspired by my third book, The Republic of Pirates, premiers May 30th and the network has just released a trailer for the first episode.

As you can see, Crossbones starts John Malkovich as Blackbeard. It's written by Neil Cross, best known as the creator of the dark BBC crime drama Luther.

The network has also released a series of character portraits found here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Talking American Nations in Oxford, Ohio, April 25

For those of you in southwestern Ohio, I'll be giving the McConnell Lecture at Miami University in Oxford this coming Friday afternoon on American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

The talk, hosted by the Geography, Political Science, and History departments, starts at 2:30 in Schideler Hall, and there's a reception afterward to come speak informally. It's free and open to the public. More details in the poster image here:

Earlier this month, I gave my American Nations talks at the Governing Leadership Forums in Lansing, Michigan (Yankeedom) and College Park, Maryland (on the edge of Tidewater), and to Arlington, Virginia's Serious Book Club, and enjoyed all three. My next public talk isn't until July 14, however, when I'll be talking Republic of Pirates at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

[Update, 4/30/14: Here's a little write up of my Miami University talk from their communications office. Enjoyed my visit to Oxford.]

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ancestral geography and American Nations at the Washington Post

Flying back from Washington, D.C. this afternoon, I was pleased to see Reid Wilson's piece over at the Washington Post featuring the U.S. Census Bureau's map of dominant reported ancestry by county and, yes, the American Nations map. As Wilson points out, there are a number of continuities.

For those unfamiliar with American Nations, note a critical difference at the outset. The map from my book is tied to initial settlement patterns, showing which of North America's disparate Euro-American colonizing cultures first settled which parts of the continent, laying down the institutions, expectations, and societal norms -- the "cultural DNA" as it were -- that later (and, often, much larger) immigrants had to deal with. Thus (largely English) Yankees may have guided and dominated settlement of the Western Reserve of Ohio or Michigan, but that doesn't mean they are a majority today -- or even a century ago.

That said, some remarkable continuities in patterns will likely strike you. First, as the book itself remarks about this census map, the people of Greater Appalachia are the ones calling themselves "Americans" when asked their ethnicity. (As former Sen. Jim Webb points out in Born Fighting, this is probably because many are not properly aware of their Scots-Irish ancestry.) Much of the Deep South has African-American pluralities and -- not surprisingly -- El Norte has Mexican or Hispano/Spanish pluralities (the latter, as discussed in the book, being the descendants of the early Spanish settlers of New Mexico.) Also: see that big blot of "English" dominance in Utah and surrounding states? Those are the descendants of the Mormon Migration -- overwhelmingly Yankees. Indeed, Utah regularly surpasses rivals Maine and Vermont as the "most English" states in the federation.

For fun, consider this map from the Canadian census, where Eastern Canadians of European background almost universally identify as "Canadian" (rather than "French/Quebecois" or "English" or "Irish") and those in Central and Western Canada never do. First nations people of course dominate First Nation (though in some of these sparsely populated areas, the map needs municipal-level data to draw the boundaries between Far West and First Nation.)

Finally, thanks to the Governing Institute for having me as their luncheon keynote at their Governing Maryland Leadership Forum in College Park yesterday; I enjoyed meeting and talking to many of that very sectionalized state's leaders. Also to the members of the Serious Book Club for a stimulating discussion of the book on the Virginia side of the Potomac last night; pleased the book has so many thoughtful followers in the Tidewater.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

American Nations and Belize

As a once-frequent visitor to Belize -- setting for part of my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas -- I was pleased to see one of their major dailies make use of my most recent title, American Nations. Inspired by the concepts they encountered in the book, Amandala's editorial board weighed in on Belize's national identity, arguing for a prominent place for its Ango-Creole culture vis a vis the Spanish-speaking Maya world which -- via Guatemala -- has territorial claims on the former British colony. (I wrote about the latter a decade and a half ago here.) Here's Amandala:

It is Belize’s black, English-speaking component which feels most threatened by the Guatemalan claim to Belize. In defining Belize’s national reality, however, it is precisely that black, English-speaking component which made us very different from Guatemala, the nation which has claimed Belizean territory...Using Woodard’s definition, we can argue that Belize is a nation which became a state on September 21, 1981. This is the reality which Guatemala seeks to reverse. This reversal is what we, the Belizean people, have vowed to resist.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.

I'd say this: in American Nations terms, most of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Chiapas and other areas probably belong to a Maya cultural zone dating back thousands of years. Parts of coastal Belize -- along with the Bay Islands of Honduras, parts of the Mosquito Coast, and other coastal locales, might have claim to be a dominant Anglo-Creole regional culture under Wilbur Zelinsky's Doctrine of First Effective Settlement. Regardless, a country like Belize has long been bi-cultural in this regard -- tri-cultural if you give the Garifuna people their due -- and one hopes this will remain a source of its strength rather than strife.