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Rural Gentrification as White Flight: Race and Class in the Creation of the “New” West Archipelago

Authors: John Hines*,
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Rural Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: rural/small-town, gentrification, whiteness,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 4:55 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Virtual Track 4
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In this paper we describe the curious confluence of the urban phenomena of “white-flight” and gentrification in the ongoing middle-class colonization of North American rural regions and small-towns. In so doing, we also contribute ethnographic evidence to reinforce the critical analysis of the conjoined character of race and class in the contemporary Modern-capitalist world and, thereby highlight, the role they play in the creation of the so-called “New” West. Through the re/presentation of the specific narratives of migration deployed by recent in-migrants to the northern fringe of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we depict the ways in which the cultural politics of race—specifically of whiteness—and class are embedded in the justifications given by rural/small-town gentrifiers. In so doing, following Geoff Mann’s (2008) insight on the cultural-compulsion of country music, we highlight that rural/small-town gentrification must be recognized as a means by which these ex-sub/urbanites are “called” to their “whiteness” and their middle-class-ness and thereby become party to the re/creation of the region as an “authentic” site of white middle-class experience. To that end, specific ethnographic episodes are employed to highlight how anxieties related to class and race are coded in ways that blend them with general stereotypical ills of urban life, i.e. pollution, traffic, etc., and, as we conclude, provide impetus to “white flight” from the cities of the US as well as “calling” such people to their whiteness (and their middle-class-ness) in specific rural/small-town domains of the “New” West Archipelago.

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