WEST PLAINS, Mo. – “Modernity and Regional Identity” is the theme of the eighth annual Ozarks Studies Symposium set for Sept. 18-20 at the West Plains Civic Center.
The event celebrates various aspects of Ozarks culture through presentations and performances by representatives of the academic world and the public sector. The symposium is being sponsored by the Missouri State University-West Plains academic affairs office, West Plains Council on the Arts and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Admission is free and open to all.
“We have an excellent program this year. We currently have 16 presenters confirmed, and we are expecting several more proposals,” said Dr. Phillip Howerton, associate professor of English at Missouri State-West Plains and coordinator of the symposium. “This year’s theme was chosen to prompt a discussion about the impact of modernity upon how people both inside and outside of the Ozarks view the region and to prompt discussions about how the region is changing, both for the better and for the worse, as its culture is leveled by such forces as population shifts, globalization and enhanced communication.”
The symposium will begin with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, in the Magnolia Room at the West Plains Civic Center. Sponsored by the West Plains Council on the Arts, with financial support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, the reception will feature Barbara Williams, artist and adjunct professor of art at Missouri State-West Plains, as guest speaker. Her photographic exhibit “Ozark Snapshots,” will be on display Sept. 13 through Oct. 5 and the civic center’s Gallery on the Mezzanine. Admission is free.
The exhibit’s images show “snapshots” of Ozarks family members caught in a moment of time, Williams said, explaining they are of actual people and actual places in could-have-been combinations. “Memories, and what my eyes still see, are combined in a mixed media collage of etchings, water media and photographs,” she said. “Producing them has been a way to stop time, making it stay – to keep the people, places and things with me which are too valuable to disappear and which have too quickly changed. Collected items such as brightly colored 1930s tablecloths, wall coverings, period furniture and images of remaining Ozarks native stone buildings serve as an inspiration and reference for these pieces of a time ‘here and gone.’”
The symposium’s keynote address will be given at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, by Dr. Gary R. Kremer, executive director of the State Historical Society of Missouri and author and editor of numerous works, including James Milton Turner and the Promise of America: The Public Life of a Post-Civil War Black-Leader, Missouri’s Black Heritage and George Washington Carver: In His Own Words. His new book, Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri, will be released by the University of Missouri press in October.
Before becoming executive director of the state archives, Kremer taught history at Lincoln University in Jefferson City and William Woods University in Fulton. He also served as the State Archivist of Missouri from 1987 to 1991, and was a student and research assistant of African American history pioneer Dr. Lorenzo J. Greene while a student at Lincoln University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The title of Kremer’s presentation will be “Slavery and Freedom in the Rural Missouri Ozarks: A Look at Wright County.”
Other presentations during the two-day symposium include:
• “Hard Toward Home” by Dr. Craig Albin, professor of English at Missouri State-West Plains. Albin will read his short story, “Hard Toward Home,” which is set in the northern Arkansas Ozarks and concerns the encroachment of the illegal drug culture into the life of protagonist Lid McKee, a laid-off factory worker and part-time logger.
• “Childbirth in the Ozarks – Where the Old becomes New” by Charles Baclawski, a Ph.D. candidate in the Heritage Studies Program at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. This presentation uses the Arkansas midwife war of the 1980s as a framework to address concepts of modernity.
• “Mountain Modernity and Archeology in the Arkansas Ozarks: A Case Study from Van Winkle’s Mill” by Dr. Jamie C. Brandon, research station archaeologist with Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. This presentation will explore the archeological investigations that have been ongoing at Van Winkle’s Mill, the site of a late-19th century sawmill community in the Arkansas Ozarks.
• “Another Good Story Shot Down by an Eyewitness: Textile Production in the Ozarks” by Laura Bowles, a writing instructor at University of Central Arkansas in Conway. This presentation will challenge the romantic pioneer stereotype of the housewife single-handedly growing cotton, spinning it, weaving it and making clothing, bed coverings and quilts.
• “The Front Porch Regulars” by Larry Dablemont, journalist and editor of Lightn’ Ridge Publications and freelance author. Dablemont will discuss his new book, The Front Porch Regulars, in which he tells stories of some of the old-time river men and farmers he knew when he was a child.
• “Faces Like Devils: The Bald Knobber Vigilantes in the Ozarks” by Dr. Matthew J. Hernando, instructor of history and government at Ozarks Technical Community College in Hollister, Mo. In this presentation, Hernando will discuss the activities and the form of justice meted out by the Ozarks Bald Knobbers.
• “Bloodroot: Poems of Rural Missouri” by Howerton, who will read a selection of his poems that engage a number of themes central to life in this region, such as urban sprawl, inflated farmland prices, the demise of the small and independent farmer, the inability of outsiders to fully understand native culture, the loss of respect for manual labor and the loss of connection to past folkways and traditions.
• “Jews, Gentile, and Intergroup Relations in Springfield, Mo.: A Change in Modernity” by Mara W. Cohen Ioannides, senior instructor in the English department at Missouri State University-Springfield. This paper will examine incidences of anti-Semitism from the 1940s to the turn of the century. It will show the differences in how the 20th and 21st century Springfield Jews reacted to these incidents and the responses of the larger Springfield community.
• “Exploring Regional Identity in Arkansas: The Salience of the Ozark Term” by Dr. Thomas M. Kersen, associate professor of sociology at Jackson State University, Jackson, Miss. Kersen will present findings that suggest that, rather than getting less Southern and more Americanized, Arkansas regions are increasingly identifying more in terms of Ozark culture. Results also suggest that Southern exceptionalism is moot, that is, to be Southern is to be American.
• “Favorite Fiddle Tunes, Old and New” will be a panel moderated by Dr. Ed McKinney, former professor of history at Missouri State-West Plains. This panel presentation will offer discussions about some of the favorite fiddle tunes of past and present Ozarkers and will offer live renditions of these songs.
• “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves: Reflections on Traveling Medicine Shows and Our Quest to be Entertained While Fighting Gravity, Old Age and Pain” by Kim McCully-Mobley, adjunct professor at Drury University in Springfield. This presentation will offer a humorous and quick look at the traveling medicine shows of the 19th century, the clinical studies of the 20th century and the 21st century’s grasp of class-action suits, disclaimers, side effects and insights in the age-old war against pain and our quest to be entertained while fighting gravity, old age and constipation.
• “Hook, Line and Sinker: A Collection of Fish Tales from Missouri Anglers” by Dr. Mark Morgan, associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Morgan will explore the reasons for the reduced numbers of people engaging in recreational fishing in Missouri and discuss his new book, Hook, Line & Sinker: A Collection of Fish Tales from Missouri Anglers.
• “The New Deal, Dam Progress and the End of Producerist Populism in the Arkansas Ozarks” by Dr. Blake Perkins, associate professor of history at Williams Baptist College, Walnut Ridge, Ark. Perkins will argue that, although observers today may find it surprising when considering the region’s current tea party political culture, rural Arkansas Ozarkers in the 1930s generally supported enlarging the powers of the federal government in order to promote greater economic security and democracy for common, working-class Americans.
• “From Mules to Monsanto: Modernity’s Impact on Agriculture in Northern Pope, Johnson and Franklin Counties (AR)” by W. Scott Tomlin, academic advisor at Arkansas Tech University, Russellville. This presentation discusses the transformations in agricultural practices in the northern portions of Pope, Johnson and Franklin counties from the 1870s until the 1970s.
In addition to these presentations, the 11-member musical group Possum Holler Fiddlers, based in the Branson area, will provide a special performance of Ozark mountain music at 3 p.m. Sept. 20 in the West Plains Civic Center theater. The performance is co-sponsored by the symposium and the Delta Kappa Gamma Xi Chapter, a regional professional honorary society of women educators, organizers said.
“Members of the Ozarks Studies Symposium Committee are delighted with the support we have received for the symposium during the past eight years,” said Howerton. “Committee members wish to thank this year’s sponsors: the Missouri State University-West Plains academic affairs office, the West Plains Council on the Arts, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and an anonymous donor. Committee members also wish to thank major donors who have supported the symposium in the past, such as Trillium Trust, the Missouri Humanities Council and the Missouri Arts Council.”
For more information about the symposium, visit ozarksymposium.wp.missouristate.edu.