What the Institute Is. The Abbeville Institute is an association of scholars in higher education devoted to a critical study of what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition. The Institute conducts seminars and conferences for college and graduate students, and guides research and publication on all aspects of the Southern tradition. The Institute is not a Southern heritage preservation society, nor is it concerned merely with the history of the region. Its work is more philosophic in nature, namely to explore the metaphysical image of things human and divine to which the Southern tradition bears witness. This includes seeking to understand the value of those features of community that promote an enduring and humane order: the importance of private property, place, piety, humility, manners, classical liberal studies, rhetoric, and the importance of a human scale to political order. We are interested both in what those values intimate for our own time, and in how they came to be features of the Southern tradition.
Why the Institute was Founded. In a healthy society, education is the thoughtful enjoyment of a cultural inheritance. But American society today is in the grip of an ideological culture war. During the last thirty years, colleges and universities have come to be dominated by the ideologies of multiculturalism and political correctness. The result is that the distinctly Southern interpretation of American history and identity is simply not taught. If the Southern tradition is mentioned at all, it is usually vilified as little more than a mask for racism. In ignoring or eliminating the Southern tradition, much that is good and noble in American life is rendered inexplicable; but perhaps more importantly one erases from memory a valuable intellectual and spiritual resource for exposing and correcting the errors of American modernity.
Eugene Genovese, a distinguished historian of the South--a northerner and a man of the left--has been a rare voice in criticizing this purge of the Southern tradition from the academy. In the Massey Lectures given at Harvard, he had this to say: "Rarely these days, even on southern campuses, is it possible to acknowledge the achievements of the white people of the South...To speak positively about any part of this southern tradition is to invite charges of being a racist and an apologist for slavery and segregation. We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity--an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white southerners, and arguably black southerners as well, of their heritage, and, therefore, their identity. They are being taught to forget their forebears or to remember them with shame."
The Goals of the Institute. This condition is not going to change overnight. Those who created it are tenured, and will dominate in higher education for at least a generation-- and even longer since they are disposed to hire and tenure only their own. Even so, there are many scholars in America and abroad who take inspiration from the Southern tradition, and many others who are open to what it has to teach. Students too are open. Many feel they are somehow encountering on campus a profound intellectual and spiritual disorder, but they do not know how to think about it.
What is needed is an association of faculty and students outside the university--but connected to it--where new questions can be raised and new lines of research explored. Students who attend Institute events discover faculty with national and international reputations who have a different, and more thoughtful conception of the Southern tradition and of its place in the increasingly contested question of American identity. Armed with scholarly understanding and the lineaments of a different program of research, students return to the university better able to engage in fruitful debate with their teachers and fellow students.
In addition to education, the Institute provides a circle of fellowship for students and faculty. We keep in touch with students, providing academic support, and advising them about programs of study, graduate schools, scholarships, fellowships, and grants. After graduation from their respective colleges or universities, we provide assistance in getting them placed in teaching, research, or other professional positions.
Programs. The Institute conducts two main programs:
(1) an annual summer school for undergraduate and graduate students. The summer school is held at different locations in the South.
(2 ) an annual scholar's conference where Institute faculty, and invited scholars, meet to present papers for criticism and to discuss plans for advancing the academic goals of the Institute in respect to research, publication, and teaching.
Donations. Being a 501 (c) 3 organization under the Internal Revenue Code, all contributions to the Abbeville Institute are tax deductible. For inquiries about the Institute or about contributions please CONTACT US.