Southern Studies

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Undergraduate, Major and Minor

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Elizabeth Engelhardt, John Shelton Reed Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies, Coordinator, Southern Studies

 The study of the American South is one of the core concentrations in UNC’s American Studies Department.


From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement to the contemporary Sunbelt, the South has been America’s crucible for social and cultural change.  Whether in race, religion, politics, agriculture, economic development, immigration, art, music, literature, food, or material culture—the South’s influence on the nation and the world is profound.


The Southern Studies Concentration is an interdisciplinary program that allows students to examine the American South from many perspectives.  Undergraduates may choose either a major or minor in Southern Studies.  Both paths begin with a required gateway course that introduces students both to the cultural and historical complexity of the region and to core faculty engaged in the study of the South at the University.

This interdisciplinary program draws on the particular strengths of the long study of the South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—one of the first institutions to address the contemporary problems and challenges of the region in the 1920s.

Undergraduate students can consider the region in all its complexity through a multi-disciplinary conversation about the American South that considers anthropology, art, archaeology, architecture, communication studies, cultural tourism, ecology, environment, folklife, foodways, geography, history, journalism, language, law, literature, material culture, myth and manners, music, oral history, politics, public health, religion, values, and more. Southern Studies Courses…


The Southern Studies Concentration is anchored in the South’s vibrant diversity. The concentration recognizes the contributions of all its people, including men and women of American Indian, African, Latino, Asian, and European descent.  It also explores how global communities have responded to the cultural exports of the American South.  Understanding the tragic, powerful role of racial oppression that has shaped the South’s history and culture, the Southern Studies Concentration seeks to deepen student awareness of the challenges and opportunities that accompany the region’s burdened history and its dynamic future.


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the world’s best-equipped institution to study The American South. Caro­lina’s scholars and research collections are unparalleled resources for the study of Southern history, folklore, literature, and arts.  The University’s social scientists and technical experts offer informed visions for its future.  UNC’S institutional resources on the South include the Southern Historical Collection, the Southern Folklife Collec­tion, the Research Laboratories in Archaeology, the Odum Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, southern collections at UNC’s Ackland Museum of Art, and The Center for the Study of the American South (CSAS), which houses the Southern Oral History Program and the award-winning journal Southern Cultures.

The Southern Studies program at Carolina also encourages students to take advantage of both local and global resources in the Triangle for study of the South.  These resources include the annual Global American South Symposium, UNC’s Global Research Institute’s Program in Food, Agriculture and Sustainable Development (FASD), Triangle University Food Studies, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem.  Southern cultural and historical institutions in the region also offer exciting opportunities for study, from the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh to the pottery centers of Seagrove and Jug Town to the Museum of the New South in Charlotte.  The Triangle has rapidly developed as an important center for food studies, sustainable agriculture, health and nutrition, and food justice.  Regional opportunities for study and practicum in these areas abound.  Students are also encouraged to explore programs, internships, and resources of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.


Competitive grants are available for summer undergraduate research and honors studies.  Opportunities for undergraduate student internships exist in many campus and off-campus institutions, as well as regional organizations engaged with southern issues and policy.


The University of North Carolina’s longstanding intellectual and historical relationship to the state and to the entire American South offers students in the Southern Studies Concentration unprecedented opportunity and entrée to professions such as teaching, business, library science, film, journalism, music, law, politics, arts administration, historical institutions, museums, archives, and preservation.