Trembling Earth
A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp

Megan Kate Nelson

The first cultural history of Georgia’s great swamp


"Trembling Earth is a fascinating, valuable addition to the (suddenly) burgeoning literature encompassing the American Southeast's environment. Nelson's work, excellent in itself, represents a flowering in the regional field, I think, that will soon rival the larger and older tradition of western environmental history."
—Jack Temple Kirby, author of Poquosin: A Study of Rural Landscape and Society

"Trembling Earth assembles a wealth of fascinating, valuable, and previously uncollected (for the most part) information about a key locale in American social and cultural history. Not since Elizabeth McKinsey's Niagara Falls has there been so effective an analysis of a particular American landscape as this one."
—David C. Miller, author of Dark Eden: The Swamp in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

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This innovative history of the Okefenokee Swamp reveals it as a place where harsh realities clashed with optimism, shaping the borderland culture of southern Georgia and northern Florida for over two hundred years.

From the formation of the Georgia colony in 1732 to the end of the Great Depression, the Okefenokee Swamp was a site of conflict between divergent local communities. Coining the term “ecolocalism” to describe how local cultures form out of ecosystems and in relation to other communities, Megan Kate Nelson offers a new view of the Okefenokee, its inhabitants, and its rich and telling record of thwarted ambitions, unintended consequences, and unresolved questions.

The Okefenokee is simultaneously terrestrial and aquatic, beautiful and terrifying, fertile and barren. This peculiar ecology created discord as human groups attempted to overlay firm lines of race, gender, and class on an area of inherent ambiguity and blurred margins. Rice planters, slaves, fugitive slaves, Seminoles, surveyors, timber barons, Swampers, and scientists came to the swamp with dreams of wealth, freedom, and status that conflicted in varied and complex ways. Ecolocalism emerged out of these conflicts between communities within the Okefenokee and other borderland swamps.

Nelson narrates the fluctuations, disconnections, and confrontations embedded in the muck of the swamp and the mire of its disorderly history, and she reminds us that it is out of such places of intermingling and uncertainty that cultures are forged.

Page count: 280 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9

Read more about the Okefenokee Swamp at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


List price: $25.95

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Megan Kate Nelson is a writer, historian, and cultural critic. Based in Lincoln, Massachusetts, she writes for the New York Times Disunion blog and Civil War Times. She is also the author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Georgia).