Acadian in the Southern Imagination: Race and Identity in Reconstruction Louisiana Newspapers 1862-1877
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Jeffery P. Shepherd
The emergence of Acadian identity as a reaction to Southern imagining has received little attention from historians of Louisiana Acadian history. Many scholars align with a narrative that centers American cultural adaptation which describe a process that begins with a split along class, not race lines, to form a Cajun identity which becomes, like other American immigrant stories, an element of American identity. The dominant historical narrative suggests that all elements of Acadian are incorporated into the overarching American identity. The Acadian-to-Cajun-qua-American-assimilation narrative implies and reinforces that the Cajun-American identity is superior and more socially acceptable than the Acadian identity. This study examines mostly English-language Louisiana newspapers of the Civil War and Reconstruction erasâ?? Acadian-related articles of various genres and subsequently uncovers patterns that trouble commonly held beliefs about Acadian identity in the Southern imagination. Louisiana editors and journalists did not portray Acadians as an economically disadvantaged class; rather, they depicted the population as racially inferior, foreign, and incapable of self-governance via a post-emancipation rhetoric that attributed to the ethnic group an ethos of violence, ignorance, indifference, and subhuman status. Anglos, regardless of political party, were determined to legitimize and prioritize their superior position in the national racial hierarchy. Editors and journalistsâ?? rhetoric served multiple political agendas by making Acadians the scapegoat of the period. Editors and journalistsâ?? scapegoating was a reaction to a crisis in the legitimacy of Acadians as part of the dominate American narrative. Anglo-run newspapers posit that Acadians were the existential threat to the country by describing the racially inferior Acadians as foreign which kept them on the racial periphery. Cajuns capitalized on the skewed narratives by commodifying their unique, but American, identity to attract tourism and patronage. This study is part of a growing corpus of work that rethinks Acadian identity as one shaped by an insidious Southern imagination and includes theories that recognize Acadian as a nuanced and fluid identity.
Received from ProQuest
Jessica DeJohn Bergen
Bergen, Jessica DeJohn, "Acadian in the Southern Imagination: Race and Identity in Reconstruction Louisiana Newspapers 1862-1877" (2022). Open Access Theses & Dissertations. 3653.