Defining the Delta: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta Chapter 1-6 Review (2020)

LOC: Mississippi Delta Geographic Region

Chapters 1-6 of Defining the Delta: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta, edited by Dr. Janelle Collins, placed ideologies and concepts about the delta region into a unique perspective that expands beyond the traditional views of describing a place or region. Throughout the chapters, several descriptors move the author’s overall position that the delta region of the United States consists of varying elements that ultimately shape the area’s culture and natural makeup. The author even suggests that defining the delta cannot be done by one specific definition or concept.

The descriptors and elements within the chapters include the climatological definition and the sociodemographic of regional inhabitants. Moreover, the historical factor from archaic periods to modern-day people, location, flora, and fauna round out the discussion.Chapter 1 offers a beautiful introduction to what it means to define the delta by providing an overview of the text material and what the reader expects to encounter as they progress through the chapters. In the opening chapter, the reader is introduced to the historical timeline of Delta Studies and the particulars about the development of the delta region from historians’ and archaeologists’ perspectives.

Some of the key points that support the author’s position of the delta region include discussions on diversity and the folklorist take on the delta. Imperatively both literature and folklore about the delta region describe diversity that has been evident throughout history and those that have come to interact with it over time.

In Chapters 2 and 3, conversation shifts toward discussing the author’s position by providing a look at the region through the lens of a geologist and archeologist perspective. Before consulting the text, my initial thoughts about the delta acknowledged the Mississippi River and the southern states associated with the river through the geological proximity to the river and its surroundings.

However, it was revealed that the Mississippi River is not just a bridge between the lower half of the south and its resources. In Chapter 2, the author Randel Tom Cox highlights that “The Delta runs from Cairo, Illinois, four hundred miles south the Gulf of Mexico, where it merges imperceptibly with Louisiana’s coastal plain[1] As the chapter progresses, the author vividly depicts the natural disasters and occurrences that aided in shaping and reconstructing the region’s geological makeup throughout history.

For Chapter 3, author David H. Dye unveils the delta’s historical representation by disclosing the chronological timeline of the delta region from the Early Paleoindian time to the Late Protohistoric Period. Although the material presented in both chapters is not new to the body of study, it is refreshing to see the correlation between how it relates to the development of the delta region and its culture.  In forecasting the remainder of the book, Defining the Delta: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta will more than likely continue to explore varying dualisms that supersede the general scope of culture, heritage, and definition.

What also works within these two chapters that propel the narrative first made by the editor is that we see and have descriptions of products and goods produced by the periods that shaped the story of the delta region. Material goods and items produced in a region can often also depict the region’s story in a way that exceeds simplistic definitions.

However, another aspect to consider that would help develop the delta region narrative is to have more evidence and research based on historic sites and preservation. Since many sites have been either destroyed or poorly preserved, present-day archaeologists, scientists, and historians must work diligently to capture more of the site’s history. In turn, it will continue to diversify the region’s narrative and depiction for future social and regional delta studies.

In the latter half of this week’s discussion, Chapters 4, 5, and 6 focus on the delta region’s environmental characteristics and history. Author Mikko Saiku defines environmental history as an attempt to study the interaction between humans and nature in the past.[2] The idea of exploring the environment and how it shapes and defines a region has not always been a concept that I had considered while studying the social makeup of the area. Previous experience always led me to focus on the attitudes, beliefs, and cultural history to define both regions and people.

Nevertheless, based on the discussions between this author and the remaining three authors of the section, I am now strongly considering reviewing the environmental makeup of a region to support research and the varied narrative that supports that story of a region. The authors also display strength in revealing that the environment goes beyond weather and includes events that shape an environment’s emotional “temperature.”

In all, both the editor and authors in this week’s discussion provide strong evidence about events and how these events, both natural and human-related, create what is known as the delta region or the lower Mississippi Valley region. The works and narratives presented in these chapters have inspired my research to explore beyond the surface layer of region and place. Other factors that influence regional histories, such as environment, products, and periods must be considered.

References

Cox, Tom Randel. “A Geologist’s Perspective of the Mississippi Delta,” in Defining the Delta

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta, edited by Janelle Collins, 11. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2015.

Saikku, Mikko. An Environmental Historian’s Perspective on the Mississippi Delta,” in Defining

the Delta Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta, edited by Janelle Collins, 51. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2015.


[1].” Randel Tom Cox, “A Geologist’s Perspective of the Mississippi Delta,” in Defining the Delta Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta, ed. Janelle Collins (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2015), 11.    

[2] Mikko Saikku, “An Environmental Historian’s Perspective on the Mississippi Delta,” in Defining the Delta Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta, ed. Janelle Collins (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2015), 51.

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