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Life, Narrative, and History: A Discussion with Jodi Skipper

One of my goals in this book is to help other activist scholars of color negotiate the nuances of place, the academic public sphere, and its ambiguous systems of reward, recognition, and evaluation.

– Jodi Skipper

Equal parts skeptic, scholar, activist, and historian Jodi Skipper explores the complexities of the Southern history in her evocative book Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. 

Using an autoethnographic approach, Skipper dissects contemporary discussions of slavery in the South, the problems with “heritage tourism”, and lingering cultural biases that still trouble communities of color to this day, all while adeptly interweaving her own lived experience and perspective.

Skipper also explores her eight-year collaboration with the Behind the Big House program, a community-based initiative that uses local historic sites to address and interpret the impacts of slavery in America. The program’s name serves as active commentary on the tendency for Southern heritage tours to begin “with the grandeur and elegance of a mansion and its furnishings,” and neglect to investigate the living quarters of enslaved people located behind the mansion.

By helping to preserve and investigate these often-forgotten historical sites, Behind the Big House is helping to uplift the experiences of the enslaved people who lived in these quarters and allow for a deeper discussion about the impacts of slavery in the South.

In this latest Community Learning Series, we will join Skipper for a lunchtime discussion about the topics covered in her book, her work with the Behind the Big House program, and the role storytelling plays in the preservation of history.

About Jodi Skipper

Jodi Skipper is a professor of Anthropology and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. She is also the co-editor of Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Exploration of a U.S. Region, which is a collection of original essays that explore the interdisciplinary study of the American South in regional, national, and global contexts.