Monday, April 6, 2015

Exoticizing rural Arkansas … in the New York Times

The "Lens" feature of the New York Times last week ran a piece called "Love and Loss on the Road to Arkansas." It features the work of Nina Robinson, who took a road trip (from New York) to southwest Arkansas to see her aging grandmother.  Her grandmother died while Robinson was there, and so the photographer stayed longer than she had planned, chronicling the lives of her extended family in Dalark and nearby Arkadelphia.  The photos are poignant and lovely, and I am glad the New York Times ran this feature.  But I cannot help think how odd it is that the everyday lives of people in the rural south would be of interest to the cosmopolites who read the New York Times.  Are the lived experiences of African-Americans in Dalark of interest to NYT readers?  Are they of "interest" in the way the lives of small tribes in the south Pacific or Africa are of interest?  That is, do they represent the exotic?  I'm not sure.  Regardless of the answers to these questions, I suppose the photos matter—and justify this showcasing—as art.  

Read more about Dalark here, here and here (the latter from a site called ePodunk).  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tom Cotton on the similarities between rural and urban

The New York Times Magazine's interview with Tom Cotton, the freshman Senator from Arkansas who also happens to be the youngest U.S. Senator, featured this Q & A:
Q:  You were raised in rural Arkansas, attended Harvard and Harvard Law and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. What was a bigger culture shock for you?   
A:  The Middle East and South Asia have a lot less in common with America than 18-year-old kids in Boston have with 18-year-old kids in Arkansas. Teenagers are kinda the same wherever you find them in America.
For the record, Cotton grew up in Danville, Arkansas, population 2,392.  Danville is one of two county seats in Yell County, population 21,951, which is part of the Russellville Micropolitan Statistical Area.