(Re)visiting American Small Towns and Main Streets

Type: Paper
Theme:
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Rural Geography Specialty Group, Regional Development and Planning Specialty Group
Organizers: Christopher Willer
Chairs: Christopher Willer

Call for Submissions

Since the 2016 election, the media has set U.S. small towns apart from larger cities in politics (Brownstein 2016; Badger et al. 2016; Shearer 2016), culture (Vance 2016), and economy (Krugman 2017; Porter 2017). Until recently, while cultural geographers showed interest in small towns (e.g. Lewis, 1972; Zelinksy, 1977), urban research rarely focused on these places. More recent work is expanding our understanding of small towns as urban places (Bell & Jayne 2006; Mapes 2009), with interests in economic challenges (Paradis 2000; Ellickson & Grieco 2013), cultural landscapes (Lorentzen & van Heur 2012; Dymitrow 2014), local politics (Laninga et al. 2019) , and the built environment (Duany & Plater-Zyberk 1992; Southworth 2005). In this session, we seek to bring together scholars and practitioners from across the urban-rural spectrum, to increase our collective knowledge about U.S. small towns, ultimately highlighting the importance of these places in shaping U.S. geography. As “small town” is as much a cultural term as it is a demographic one, our definition of these places is flexible. However, we generally equate small towns with what the U.S. Census calls Urban Clusters: places with a dense central core and a population between 2,500 and 50,000 (US Census 2018).

We invite papers that describe methods of studying small towns and their residents, results of this research, as well as both theoretical and community-driven work on this topic
.
Themes could include (but are not limited to):
• Approaches to understanding the urban-rural spectrum
• Small town imaginaries
• Immigration, Trump-era politics, and small towns
• Redeveloping or replicating small-town main streets
• Economic development in small towns
• Sustainability & environmental challenges in small cities
• Amenity migration & sprawl in small towns
• Population decline and right-sizing small cities

If you are interested in participating in this session, please send your title and abstract (250 words max) to session organizers Christopher Willer (cwiller1@kent.edu) and Jennifer Mapes (jmapes@kent.edu) by October 16, 2019.

Works cited
Badger, E., Bui, Q., & Pearce, A. (2016). The election highlighted a growing rural-urban split. The New York Times. 11 Nov.

Bell, D., & Jayne, M. (2006). Small cities: Urban experience beyond the metropolis. Routledge.

Brownstein, R. (2016). How the election revealed the divide between city and country. The Atlantic. 17 Nov. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/clinton-trump-city-country-divide/507902/

Duany, A., & Plater-Zyberk, E. (1992). The second coming of the American small town. Wilson Quarterly, 16(1), 3-51.

Dymitrow, M. (2014). The effigy of urbanity or a rural parody? A visual approach to small-town public space. Journal of Cultural Geography, 31(1), 1-31.

Ellickson, P. B., & Grieco, P. L. (2013). Wal-Mart and the geography of grocery retailing. Journal of Urban Economics, 75, 1-14.

Krugman, P. (2017). The gambler’s ruin of small cities (wonkish). New York Times. 30 Dec.

Laninga, T., Austin, G., & McClure, W. (2019). University-community partnerships in small-town Idaho: Addressing diverse community needs through interdisciplinary outreach and engagement. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 4(2), 2.

Lewis, P. F. (1972). Small town in Pennsylvania. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 62(2), 323-351.

Lorentzen, A., & van Heur, B. (Eds.). (2012). Cultural political economy of small cities (Vol. 49). Routledge.

Mapes, J. E. (2009). Urban revolution: Rethinking the American small town. University of Southern California.

Paradis, T. W. (2000). Main street transformed: Community sense of place for nonmetropolitan tourism business districts. Urban Geography, 21(7), 609-639.

Porter, E. (2017). Why big cities thrive, and smaller ones are being left behind. New York Times. 10 Oct.

Shearer, C. (2016). The small town-big city split that elected Donald Trump. Brookings Institute.
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2016/11/11/the-small-town-big-city-split-that-elected-donald-trump/

Southworth, M. (2005). Reinventing main street: From mall to townscape mall. Journal of Urban Design, 10(2), 151-170.

US Census (2018). Geography Program – 2010 Census Urban and Rural Classification and Urban Area Criteria. https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/geography/guidance/geo-areas/urban-rural/2010-urban-rural.html. 26 November.

Vance, J.D. (2016). Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Zelinsky, W. (1977). The Pennsylvania town: An overdue geographical account. Geographical Review, 127-147.


Description

Since the 2016 election, the media has set U.S. small towns apart from larger cities in politics (Brownstein 2016; Badger et al. 2016; Shearer 2016), culture (Vance 2016), and economy (Krugman 2017; Porter 2017). Until recently, while cultural geographers showed interest in small towns (e.g. Lewis, 1972; Zelinksy, 1977), urban research rarely focused on these places. More recent work is expanding our understanding of small towns as urban places (Bell & Jayne 2006; Mapes 2009), with interests in economic challenges (Paradis 2000; Ellickson & Grieco 2013), cultural landscapes (Lorentzen & van Heur 2012; Dymitrow 2014), local politics (Laninga et al. 2019) , and the built environment (Duany & Plater-Zyberk 1992; Southworth 2005). In this session, we seek to bring together scholars and practitioners from across the urban-rural spectrum, to increase our collective knowledge about U.S. small towns, ultimately highlighting the importance of these places in shaping U.S. geography. As “small town” is as much a cultural term as it is a demographic one, our definition of these places is flexible. However, we generally equate small towns with what the U.S. Census calls Urban Clusters: places with a dense central core and a population between 2,500 and 50,000 (US Census 2018).


Agenda

Type Details Minutes
Presenter Jennifer Shelby*, University of Colorado, From cowboys to creatives: transition from traditional economies to creative economies in the rural American West 15
Presenter Huston Gibson*, Kansas State University, Micky Zurcher, Helena Business Improvement District, Tash Wisemiller, Montana Department of Commerce , Beyond the Façade: Layering Spillover Investment on Main Street 15

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