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Decentralisation and Spatial Rural Development Planning in Cameroon

Despite rapid urbanisation, Africa remains predominantly rural. This calls for decentralisation beyond the dominant concern by states and government with urban spaces. Rural areas, rural development and the future of rural settlements need to be understood and addressed in the context of the ongoing democratisation trends and the emergence and development of civil society. States have tended to tame rather than serve civil society in Africa. By establishing a single cultural reference and imposing a centralised state, African governments have exacerbated the fragmentation of civil society. However, political pluralism has slowly been gaining ground since the 1990s. This book explores the scope for implementing decentralisation programmes that focus on citizens in rural areas. For the purpose of decentralisation, civic participation in local politics and user participation in development programmes must be seen as two sides of the coin. The book focuses on spatial planning ñ a process concerned with spatial organisation in an integrative manner, and incorporates the design, establishment and implementation of a desired spatial structural organisation of land. This is especially relevant in a context where the formulation of guidelines for spatial development at the overall level of a state is inadequate.

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Do, Die, or Get Along

A Tale of Two Appalachian Towns

Peter Crow

Do, Die, or Get Along weaves together voices of twenty-six people who have intimate connections to two neighboring towns in the southwestern Virginia coal country. Filled with evidence of a new kind of local outlook on the widespread challenge of small community survival, the book tells how a confrontational "do-or-die" past has given way to a "get-along" present built on coalition and guarded hope. St. Paul and Dante are six miles apart; measured in other ways, the distance can be greater. Dante, for decades a company town controlled at all levels by the mine owners, has only a recent history of civic initiative. In St. Paul, which arose at a railroad junction, public debate, entrepreneurship, and education found a more receptive home.

The speakers are men and women, wealthy and poor, black and white, old-timers and newcomers. Their concerns and interests range widely, including the battle over strip mining, efforts to control flooding, the 1989-90 Pittston strike, the nationally acclaimed Wetlands Estonoa Project, and the grassroots revitalization of both towns led by the St. Paul Tomorrow and Dante Lives On organizations. Their talk of the past often invokes an ethos, rooted in the hand-to-mouth pioneer era, of short-term gain. Just as frequently, however, talk turns to more recent times, when community leaders, corporations, unions, the federal government, and environmental groups have begun to seek accord based on what will be best, in the long run, for the towns.

The story of Dante and St. Paul, Crow writes, "gives twenty-first-century meaning to the idea of the good fight." This is an absorbing account of persistence, resourcefulness, and eclectic redefinition of success and community revival, with ramifications well beyond Appalachia.

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Dreamworlds of Alabama

Allen Shelton

“I speak in what others often hear as a strange accent. My past can’t be located. I live in Buffalo, New York, an exile from the South. But these aren’t Yankee dreams, even though my past seems like a fabrication, a dreamworld in which I’m a paper character and not a historical participant, with scars from barbed wire ripping under the pressure and flying through the air like a swarm of bees, or a horse rearing up and banging its head into mine from within, exploding my forehead.” —from the Preface

 

Wisteria draped on a soldier’s coffin, sent home to Alabama from a Virginia battlefield. The oldest standing house in the county, painted gray and flanked by a pecan orchard. A black steel fence tool, now perched atop a pile of books like a prehistoric bird of prey. In Dreamworlds of Alabama, Allen Shelton explores physical, historical, and social landscapes of northeastern Alabama. His homeplace near the Appalachian foothills provides the setting for a rich examination of cultural practices, a place where the language of place and things resonates with as much vitality and emotional urgency as the language of humans.

 

Throughout the book, Shelton demonstrates how deeply culture is inscribed in the land and in the most intimate spaces of the person—places of belonging and loss, insight and memory.

 

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Alabama, Allen Shelton is associate professor of sociology at Buffalo State College.

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Elites and Change in the Kentucky Mountains

H. Dudley Plunkett and Mary Jean Bowman

Many Americans who trace their roots to communities similar to those of Appalachian Kentucky are becoming aware of the extent to which the problems of such communities represent the price paid for keeping alive traditions that are beginning to be missed in the wider society. Using fresh data and ingenious ways of letting local people speak for themselves, Mary Jean Bowman and H. Dudley Plunkett have thrown light on how isolated, small-town people respond to the encroachment of modern America, with its organized economy, mass communications media, reliance on more and more schooling, and persistent drive for social change.

The study reveals a pervasive tension between old ways and new aspirations. Sometimes the new is in alliance with the national culture, but often tensions between regional and national ways are acute. The authors put little faith in naïve attempts to engineer social change in Appalachia -- attempts they suggest are based on dubious cultural assumptions and misconceived strategies. This study of one region in one nation can be a model for the study of similar patterns of change elsewhere.

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Farmers Helping Farmers

The Rise of the Farm and Home Bureaus, 1914-1935

Nancy K. Berlage

One of the largest volunteer movements in the twentieth century, local farm and home bureau organizations have been woefully underrepresented in socio-political studies of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Nancy K. Berlage addresses this omission with an insightful look at how bureau members put university science to work in agricultural and rural life at the local level, even while industrialization, and urbanization profoundly shifted the landscape of labor in the U.S.

In Farmers Helping Farmers, Berlage explores how bureaus served as the locus of science-based agriculture for rural communities. Drawing on community bonds and culturally powerful metaphors to overcome skepticism, bureaus played a critical role in circulating knowledge grounded in the new disciplines of agricultural economics, rural sociology, home economics, veterinary medicine, child science, and public health. Throughout the book, Berlage weaves a novel consideration of women's roles into the story of farm and home bureaus, noting that these organizations served as places where supporters could grapple with issues beyond farming practices such as child welfare, personal health, and gender ideals. They were also crucial in supporting the organization's underlying mission to strengthen community and family ties to the benefit of more efficient and productive farm.

In addition to bureau documents, Berlage draws from cartoons, films, photographs, and personal correspondence, to add a human dimension this organizational history. The resultant analysis offers a fresh look at the local bureaus' social, economic, cultural, and political functions and book highlights the organizations' significant influence on American life in the early twentieth century.

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The Fight Over Food

Producers, Consumers, and Activists Challenge the Global Food System

Edited by Wynne Wright and Gerad Middendorf

“One problem with the food system is that price is the bottom line rather than having the bottom line be land stewardship, an appreciation for the environmental and social value of small-scale family farms, or for organically grown produce.” —Interview with farmer in Skagit County, Washington For much of the later twentieth century, food has been abundant and convenient for most residents of advanced industrial societies. The luxury of taking the safety and dependability of food for granted pushed it to the back burner in the consciousness of many. Increasingly, however, this once taken-for-granted food system is coming under question on issues such as the humane treatment of animals, genetically engineered foods, and social and environmental justice. Many consumers are no longer content with buying into the mainstream, commodity-driven food market on which they once depended. Resistance has emerged in diverse forms, from protests at the opening of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide to ever-greater interest in alternatives, such as CSAs (community-supported agriculture), fair trade, and organic foods. The food system is increasingly becoming an arena of struggle that reflects larger changes in societal values and norms, as expectations are moving beyond the desire for affordable, convenient foods to a need for healthy and environmentally sound alternatives. In this book, leading scholars and scholar-activists provide case studies that illuminate the complexities and contradictions that surround the emergence of a “new day” in agriculture. The essays found in The Fight Over Food analyze and evaluate both the theoretical and historical contexts of the agrifood system and the ways in which trends of individual action and collective activity have led to an “accumulation of resistance” that greatly affects the mainstream market of food production. The overarching theme that integrates the case studies is the idea of human agency and the ways in which people purposefully and creatively generate new forms of action or resistance to facilitate social changes within the structure of predominant cultural norms. Together these studies examine whether these combined efforts will have the strength to create significant and enduring transformations in the food system.

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Fighting for the Farm

Rural America Transformed

Edited by Jane Adams

In North America industrial agriculture has now virtually displaced diversified family farming. The prevailing system depends heavily on labor supplied by migrants and immigrants, and its reliance on monoculture raises environmental concerns. In this book Jane Adams and contributors—anthropologists and political scientists among them—analyze the political dynamics that have transformed agriculture in the United States and Canada since the 1920s. The contributors demonstrate that people become politically active in arenas that range from the state to public discourse to relations between growers and their contractors or laborers, and that politics is a process that is intimately local as well as global.

The farm financial crisis of the 1980s precipitated rapid consolidation of farms and a sharp decline in rural populations. It brought new actors into the political process, including organic farmers and environmentalists. Fighting for the Farm: Rural America Transformed considers the politics of farm policy and the consequences of the increasing alignment of agricultural interests with the global economy. The first section of the book places North American agriculture in the context of the world system; the second, a series of case studies, examines the foundations of current U.S. policy; subsequent sections deal with the political implications for daily life and the politics of the environment.

Recognizing the influence of an array of political constituencies and arenas, Fighting for the Farm charts a decisive shift since the early part of the twentieth century from a discursive regime rooted in economics to one that now incorporates a variety of environmental and quality-of-life concerns.

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From British Peasants to Colonial American Farmers

With this book, Allan Kulikoff offers a sweeping new interpretation of the origins and development of the small farm economy in Britain's mainland American colonies. Examining the lives of farmers and their families, he tells the story of immigration to the colonies, traces patterns of settlement, analyzes the growth of markets, and assesses the impact of the Revolution on small farm society.

Beginning with the dispossession of the peasantry in early modern England, Kulikoff follows the immigrants across the Atlantic to explore how they reacted to a hostile new environment and its Indian inhabitants. He discusses how colonists secured land, built farms, and bequeathed those farms to their children. Emphasizing commodity markets in early America, Kulikoff shows that without British demand for the colonists' crops, settlement could not have begun at all. Most important, he explores the destruction caused during the American Revolution, showing how the war thrust farmers into subsistence production and how they only gradually regained their prewar prosperity.

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From the Ground Up

Perspectives on Post-Tsunami and Post-Conflict Aceh

Patrick Daly, R Michael Feener and Anthony J S Reid

The tsunami that struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 evoked international sympathy on a scale beyond any previous natural disaster. The international relief effort broke all records both in scale and diversity, with seven billion U.S. dollars donated from all over the world through public and private agencies for Sumatra alone. Simply as a reconstruction effort, therefore, the disbursement of those funds and the rebuilding of housing, infrastructure, and economy posed major national and international challenges. However this was not simply a reconstruction effort. Aceh at that time was a war zone, with Indonesia’s military engaged in a major operation to crush a separatist rebellion that had been simmering since 1976. Even though the funds had been donated for tsunami relief, any real reconstruction of Aceh had to consider the impact of the conflict on the well-being of the population, as well as governance and administrative capacities. This volumes serves the purpose not only of discussing some of the lessons of the Aceh reconstruction and peace processes, but also of maintaining critical links between Aceh and the international community after the initial tranches of aid expire.

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Gettin' Some Age on Me

Social Organization of Older People in a Rural American Community

John van Willigen

The social life of older rural Americans is made up of relationships formed through kinship, their neighborhoods, and the organizations to which they belong. These social institutions are shaped by the ways people use them, and therefore change through time. In this precedent-setting study, John van Willigen uses the concept of social network to investigate life-course changes in the relationships of older people within the context of community history.

Gettin' Some Age on Me grew out of a study of more than 130 older people in a rural Kentucky county. They were interviewed concerning their relationships with others, and data were collected on the give and take of support that is part of their social life. An understanding of community life and history, developed through interviews and period documentation, provided a context for understanding the changes these people have experienced over time. Finally, related studies by other researchers provided a framework for interpreting rural and urban differences.

Van Willigen skillfully interweaves these various accounts to reveal fundamentally important patterns. It is clear that these other people should be viewed not as dependent and isolated but as important sources for social support; that even though their social relationships decline in number late in life, early in the post retirement period there is an apparent increase in social involvement; and that older people are much less isolated in the rural community studied than in many urban areas.

This book makes a substantial contribution to the very limited literature on aging in rural America. It is important reading for social gerontologists and for all social scientists with an interest in American communities.

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