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February 7, 2018

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The 11 Cultures of the United States

December 4, 2019

The 11 nations of North America, Colin Woodward and Tufts/Brian Stauffer in Business Insider


One of the shortcomings of my trip around the country is that I never really penetrated America's conservative community of thought. Undoubtedly, a contributing factor was a naive reliance on social media and "networks of networks" to help me connect with America's diverse communities. Regardless, it was not difficult to come away with a powerful sense that regionalism is alive and well.


In a new book, "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America," (and author previously of, "American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good") Colin Woodard identifies 11 distinct cultures that have - and may continue to - divide the US.


In his analysis, these cultures are:

• Yankeedom (the northeast and Great Lakes)

• New Netherlands (basically the mid-Atlantic)

• The Midlands (our breadbasket states and a bit of Appalachia)

• Tidewater (a "northern South" Chesapeake Bay to North Caroline mashup)

• Greater Appalachia ("Horse country" from West Virginia to parts of Texas)

• The Deep South (enough said, with a carve-out for Louisiana)

• El Norte (our southern border, north 200-300 miles pretty much)

• The Left Coast (self-explanatory)

• The Far West (aka the Rocky Mountain West with some Great Plains thrown in)

• New France (ah, Louisiana!)

• First Nation (the smattering of lands granted to indigenous peoples)


In his earlier work Woodard does a handy job unpacking some of the historical forces, customary practices, and environmental forces that have shaped the cultures of each region. An intriguing and salient journey into what makes us "Americans" and what may keep us at each others' throats politically.


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