Photo: Matt Mets | flickr

Where is – or isn’t – Knoxville? Part 2

Ben Taylor Local Living 9 Comments

Photo: Matt Mets | flickr

Thanks, once again, to all who read and responded to my previous two questions regarding the Soul of Knoxville. For those who haven’t, there is still time to read and respond to both. I am still a long way off from a clear answer, and so I still need your help. For those who responded and wish to re-think your answers, I am still very much open to hearing from you.

What follows is my own very tentative and ambivalent response to the closing question of my last post.

The Question:
If we were to start at a central point, say downtown, and taking all possible roads out of town, where and when would we start finding people for whom we (as well as they) would feel generally comfortable saying they were not from Knoxville?

My reasoning process:
By the time we get to Nashville, Chattanooga, the Tri-Cities, and Asheville, NC we could certainly say that we are not in Knoxville anymore. The people who have lived in those cities a fair bit would feel quite comfortable saying they are not from Knoxville. Yet we would also feel quite certain that we had passed that point a long way back. But at what point?

As I followed the lines of an East Tennessee road map out and away from Henley Street, I asked myself, where would I find, more often than not, people who would agree with me in saying they were not from Knoxville?

Below are my own far-from-final answers:
Heiskell
Norris
Clinton
Andersonville
Maynardville
Blaine
Mascot
Midway
Seymour
Rockford
Alcoa
Maryville
Lenoir City
Kingston
Oak Ridge

By the time we get to the above places, we would find most people claiming they were not from Knoxville. Therefore, I would conclude we were no longer in Knoxville.

Why is this relevant?

If we are to speak in any meaningful way about the “soul” of Knoxville, i.e. its distinctiveness, we have to make distinctions between Knoxville and other places. The above list is my first attempt at that. Bear in mind it is just a hypothesis. Not only do I believe I could be mistaken, I’m almost certain that I am. But where? How? What do you think?

Comments 9

  1. Dusty

    In addition to that list (which is pretty through regarding areas that are close but not Knoxville), I’d add Halls and Powell. I hear residents of both those areas referring to themselves as residents thereof, not of Knoxville.

    It’s interesting that, from a geographical distance standpoint, the east and west reaches of “Knoxville” essentially sprawl all the way to their respective county lines before the identity is lost, whereas north and south do not.

    1. Ben Taylor

      Two very good points, Dusty.
      Regarding Halls and Powell, if you heard someone from Halls or Powell claim to be from Knoxville would you object? I don’t believe I would. Now whether or not that’s a sufficient condition for claiming Halls and Powell as Knoxville, depends a great deal, as you said, on those who live in Halls and Powell. I’d love to hear from them on this.

      I find your second point even more interesting. What are we to make of that? Why is that so?

      1. Dusty

        Oh, no I wouldn’t object at all (the more the merrier), I just think that people from those (and the other areas listed) seem to self-identify w/ the smaller locales rather than Knoxville itself.

        My wife had a rotation at St. Mary’s hospital last year and she would regularly report that people would say that they weren’t from around here or had come from out of town. When pressed, they’d be from places like Gibbs or Halls or Karns. I’ve just always thought it was funny because those places don’t seem very “out of town” to me.

      2. Ben Taylor

        Neither do they seem so to me. In one of the responses to my second post, someone mentioned Concord. In my ignorance I thought Concord was just a loose label for the general area where the town of Farragut is. But it remains its own unincorporated community to this day. I don’t consider it so ‘out of town’ either. However, my great aunt, who’s in her 90’s now, lived there for a few years back in the early 40’s, while her husband pastored a little United Methodist Church. Back then, I guess, Concord, TN was very much ‘out-of-town.’

  2. Jimbo Clark

    I find it quaint when I hear one Knoxvillian say to another, “I’m from Halls,” or, “I’m from Karns.” Identification with a particular geographic area within the city, unaccompanied by, it seems to me, a unique cultural identity, speaks of the tenacity with which many cling to a narrow sense of community.

    At best, our sense of community is broadening, as we identify more with the city or the nation. At worst, it is deteriorating, as we work further from home and consume more mass-produced and less locally-produced goods and services.

    I’ll take these other little communities seriously once they give me a good reason to leave the center city to go eat, drink, and make merry there.

    1. Ben Taylor

      Many thanks, Jimbo, for your interest and response. All three points raise significant issues with respect to what I’m trying to understand in this series of posts. Time and space limit me here on the latter two, but I do have questions regarding your first remark, which I believe deals directly with the question at hand: Do you believe a lack of particular identity distinguishing communities like Halls or Karns from one another implies an actual common identity? If so, could you comment a bit on that?

  3. Chris Belcher

    I grew up in Maryville, live in Alcoa. I do not consider myself to be living in or to be from Knoxville. But, like Jimbo Clark, to me that is at a local level.

    In my experience, people not familiar with Tennessee know of the three biggest cities, plus Bristol and Gatlinburg. If I am out of state or chatting online I’m from Knoxville. No, I’m from East Tennessee, then Knoxville. If the person expresses interest or some knowledge of the area then I will narrow it down to Alcoa.

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