Practical Symbolic Interactions in the Shrine of the South: Conversations with a Damn Yankee finds that Lexington-Rockbridge, VA, community sentiments toward Southern symbols such as the Confederate Battle Flag and Robert E. Lee are not necessarily reducible to a racial divide. John F. Cataldi uses data to demonstrate that most black and white respondents navigate a social balance between the extremes of conservation and progress as a way to productively coexist and unify as a community rather than maintain an insular posture or cause division based solely on symbolic ideology. These findings challenge conventional sociological and media-provided paradigms and broaden the discussion of what tolerance and situational context mean for a large spectrum of community members who live in the milieu of Confederate symbols every day.
John F. Cataldi teaches sociology of conflict and criminology at Washington & Lee University.
List of Tables and Figures
Chapter 1. Observing and Reporting in the Shrine of the South
Chapter 2. Reformers: Liberal Crusaders and Anti-Racists
Chapter 3. Retentionists: Conservative Crusaders and Faith Keepers
Chapter 4. Forbearers: Acta non Verba
Conclusion: The Sacred, the Mundane, and the Offensive
About the Author
"Contemporary attitudes toward Confederate monuments and memorials usually frame them either as poisonously retrograde or as worthy of veneration. Without giving in to such polarizing simplification or passing judgment, John F. Cataldi listens attentively, observes closely, and recognizes the nuances in how Southerners today—black and white, for and against Confederate monuments—make such symbols meaningful and even sacred. His careful and sympathetic study will open a lot of eyes on this contentious topic."
“As a Southerner living in the North, my reading of John F. Cataldi’s analysis of the interactional intricacies of regional identity and cultural symbolism resonated deeply. With adept skill, Cataldi expertly demonstrates why and how Southerners make varied meanings of the Confederate Flag, and then rationalize those meanings to a “Damn Yankee.” This is a master class on people, politics, and place—y’all better read this book!”
“In this timely book, John Cataldi probes the meanings that individuals and groups attach to the Confederate Battle Flag and its associated commemorations. Cataldi’s fascinating study transports the reader inside the evocative interactions with three informant ‘clusters.’ Cataldi advances our understanding of symbolic interactionism and demystifies the multivocal roots buried in the symbol. This is an intriguing, hopeful book that highlights the need to comprehend and transcend extreme ideological and political stances regarding controversial symbols.”