University of Mississippi

The Center Welcomes Two New Professors

Latin America and contemporary food movements are topics of research

By Rebecca Lauck Cleary

OXFORD, Miss. – The two newest faculty members at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Simone Delerme and Zac Henson, bring with them new perspectives on the region’s growing Latino influences and the broader implications of Southern food culture.

DelermemugwebDelerme, who describes herself as “a very eclectic person just full of surprises,” joins UM this fall as the McMullan Assistant Professor of Southern Studies and assistant professor of anthropology. Henson is the Southern Foodways Alliance postdoctoral fellow for the 2013-14 academic year.

Delerme’s research interests are Latin American and Caribbean migration, language ideologies and identity, and Hispanics in the American South. For the past two years, she has been an instructor of expository writing in the English department at Rutgers University. Before that, she was an instructor in Rider University’s political science department.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Delaware in Newark. She also has master’s degrees in liberal studies from the University of Delaware and in anthropology from Rutgers, and is on track to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology this fall from Rutgers.

“Simone Delerme’s focus on understanding the experiences of Latinos in the U.S. South will broaden our department’s growing focus on critical race studies and the global South,” said Kirsten Dellinger, UM chair of sociology and anthropology and associate professor of sociology. “Her interdisciplinary work is cutting edge and we are thrilled to welcome her as a member of the faculty.”

Delerme said she is impressed with all the work being done at the Southern studies center.

“The center’s specializations in foodways, documentary studies and the music of the South caught my attention immediately, and I quickly realized that this is a research center that embraces an interdisciplinary understanding of the South,” Delerme said. “That truly makes for an engaging environment and certainly attracted me to the University of Mississippi.”

Director Ted Ownby said he is excited for Delerme to join the Southern studies faculty, both because of what she studies and how she goes about her work. He said she brings excitement about doing research that blends face-to-face documentary work with theoretical work about race, ethnicity and class.

“The subject of Latino immigration to the South is one of the most important issues in Southern studies, and it opens up all sorts of questions about ethnicity, identity, labor, migration and also government policy,” Ownby said. “She can help a lot of our students who are doing documentary studies, and her own work will be a good corrective to anyone who hasn’t thought much about Latino communities – or even Florida – when they think of studying the South.”

Delerme will be teaching Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and the honors Introduction to Southern Studies seminar, and said she is looking forward to her fall courses and to the annual conferences and lecture series sponsored by the center.

zachensonwebThe McMullan Professorships in Southern Studies were created more than a decade ago by James and Madeleine McMullan of Chicago.

Henson, an Alabama native, graduated from Auburn University and earned a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation graduate fellow. Funding for the postdoctoral fellowship in foodways comes in part from the Chisholm Foundation.

Henson, also director of the Magic City Agriculture Program, a Birmingham, Ala., nonprofit whose mission is to improve environmental conditions through agriculture, will teach a graduate level foodways class in the fall and an undergraduate course on foodways systems in the spring.

“Many of our students now think of food decisions as political decisions,” said John T. Edge, Southern Foodways Alliance director. “I believe he promises to be a good mentor to that emergent generation of Southern studies scholars.”