Theses and Dissertations


Jason Hauser

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Giesen, James C.

Committee Member

Marcus, Alan I.

Committee Member

Hui, Alexandra

Committee Member

Marshall, Anna E.

Committee Member

Hersey, Mark D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


Heat has a history, both because temperatures changed and the way humans understand and experience those temperatures changed. This dissertation excavates that history by examining how southern heat—heat considered distinct to the subtropical American South—affected the social, economic, and political development of the United States. This dissertation argues that southern heat proved consequential for the nation as both a physical force and human construct, and that only by keeping the materiality of relatively high temperatures in conversation with the idea of heat does a full history of southern heat emerge. By looking at how humans interacted with southern heat, both mentally and physically over the course of southern history, it becomes clear that arguments about the climate of the southeastern United States, and disagreements about the essential nature of southern heat, were less debates about actual climatic conditions and the effects of high temperatures on the human body than they were contestations of values, manifestations of competing politics, divergent economic ambitions, and different visions of American society. Thus, over the course of American history, heat possessed a unique ability to cleave the South apart from the nation and place physical and biological distance between racialized bodies. Beginning at the end of the last Ice Age and ending with the widespread acceptance of anthropogenic climate change via greenhouse gas emissions in the 1980s, this dissertation traces how southern heat partitioned the American South from the rest of the country while also separating southerners from each other and other Americans by matters of degree.