Saturday, 13 April 2013

Indiana - the Crossroads of America

Indiana is the third place in the United States that I have decided to blog about.  I really enjoy learning about the United States, especially as I have yet to visit this country, which has had such an influence on 'modern' culture, both in Western societies and around the globe.  I learned a lot during my previous blogging experiences about Oklahoma and Wisconsin and I'm sure that Indiana will be no exception.

Not to mention the fact that around 40% of people who visit this blog are from the United States - it's to be expected that an English-language blog would get the majority of its visitors from the biggest English-speaking country on Earth, nevertheless, I'm grateful for the interest US readers have shown in my writing and I hope they have found my blog posts interesting and informative!

Entering White County by J Stephen Conn
Before I started researching for this blog, I only knew one thing about Indiana, which was that it has some great universities that offer comprehensive language courses.  I had a Tajik colleague in Samarkand who spent some time teaching Uzbek in Indianapolis and this sums up my 'personal experience' with the state of Indiana. 

Of course, now that I've starting researching, I've found out a lot more about the state and I look forward to continuing my research on topic areas such as The Jackson Five, Kinsey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the writings of Kurt Vonnegut

I've also learned that Indiana was originally designated as an 'Indian territory', hence the name, and lay on the border between French and British influence in the 18th century.  Like Oklahoma, Indiana was designated as a place where Native American Indians would live, until the Europeans later changed their minds and did everything they could to claim the land back and make Indiana the 19th US state (just after Louisiana and a year before Mississippi joined the Union). 

The United Methodist church in Caley
Indianapolis was specifically designed as the capital of the new state and lies almost exactly in the geographical heart of Indiana.  Indiana had two former capitals, Corydon and Vincennes, which have since played much smaller roles in the state's destiny.  The other major cities in Indiana are Fort Wayne, near the border with Ohio and Evansville, which is in the south near Kentucky. 

The small city of Gary, where the Jackson Five grew up, is practically in the suburbs of Chicago and, indeed, the 'suburb' of East Chicago is in Indiana.  This is one the US's biggest steel-producing regions and attracted a lot of African American workers, who decamped from the southern states, in search of better opportunities in the north.  I first became aware of this demographic trend when I was blogging about Oprah Winfrey and Wisconsin. 

Indiana is also known as 'the Crossroads of America' - Indianapolis is a hub for many of the interstate highways and Indiana finds itself slap bang in the middle of the US and the heart of the Mid West!  This might not seem significant until you realise how convenient Indianapolis is as a convention centre - whether it's the Gen Con gaming convention, or Star Trek meetings, the city promotes itself as a central location for nation-wide meetings. 

Monon, White County by J Stephen Conn
Indiana's nickname got me thinking about the significance of 'crossroads' in different cultures around the world - whether it's the 'comely maidens' dancing on the crossroads of Ireland, as imagined by our first President, US-born, Eamon DeValera, or the grim English tradition of executing and burying criminals under crossroads (such as Tyburn in London), the place where roads meet has interesting cultural associations.  It's a magical place of voodoo, or a meeting place with the Devil - somewhere beyond the rules of civilised society, an area between settlements, at once sacred and out of human control. 

And of course, there are less scary Crossroads in Western culture - I'm thinking of the famous soap opera that I watched as a child on British television, or the French supermarket chain, Carrefour, where I have spent many a hard-earned euro! 

So join me on this virtual journey to the crossroads of the United States - let's find out together what Indiana is all about!

Image credits:

For this blog post, I wanted to highlight the work of semi-retired clergyman, J Stephen Conn, who is an avid traveller and seems to have methodically documented many counties in each of the United States.  I thought it would be interesting to randomly choose one of the Indiana counties, White county and show you the pictures Mr Conn has taken there.  I think it's an interesting slice of 'everyday life' in the United States.

You can see more of Mr Conn's work on his photostream
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