the creation of Southernness

The process of signification lends itself to be mystified by an ideology or central power; Barthes more cleverly refers to this as mythical signification. Within this process, the core history of a practice is drained and filled with a new discourse and a new set of meanings. The sign, signifier, and the signified are also distorted into a new myth, form, and concept. The formation of disillusionment “gives them the simplicity of essences, it does away with all visible, it organizes a world which is without contradictions because it is without depth, a world wide open and wallowing in the evident” (Barthes 143). This creation of an essence is also naturalized within the realm it was created. The new form of the myth becomes something that is not questioned, rather followed blindly.

The creation of the reality television show has indeed rendered moon shining as a mythical signification. Through the new process of signification, the cultural practice of moon shining has lost some of its history and former identity. Moon shining is no long a sign, but a myth. The signifier that follows is also much different; it is a form of the myth. The meaning behind it has also changed; it now has the resignation of outlaws and criminality. The images that run through the heads of the public when moon shining is mentioned are the criminal act these distillers are participating in and the essence of Southernness. The signified is no longer the same, but has been transformed into a concept. This new concept would be the incessant perception that moon shiners are only Southern and that it is only distributed around the south, i.e. leading to Southernness.

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