Jennifer Sherman’s work in Golden Valley was focused on studying the effect of poverty, industrial restructuring, and rapid job loss on a mostly white rural community. This was in order to observe the ways in which declining life changes can lead to the evolution of specific cultural and moral discourses that help people adjust to their changing circumstances and compensate for their inabilities to achieve success through more traditional avenues ( 30). Sherman’s work was especially interesting due to the fact that white poverty, especially in the urban sense is seldom discussed and studied, and is interesting to compare white rural poverty to the theories of hypersegregation and the creation of the iconic ghetto in cities we have discussed in class, which focussed on predominately black and minority ethnic groups. What Sherman found is that community setting can affect behavior of the poor in a number of ways, for instance, Sherman argues that a rural setting allows for a greater range of survival tools and strategies that are acceptable within separate sub-cultural spheres (65). And that the evidence from Golden Valley suggests that rural areas may operate according to very different social rules than urban areas, and in order to alleviate poverty we must first understand the different “social milieus” in which poverty is prevalent and the ways in which setting interacts with culture and behavior (99) .
Sherman’s work was interesting to discuss in class following the past two lectures which had focused on the creation of the hypersegregation theories presented that sought to explain the formation of the urban (predominantly black) ghetto. Particularly, how similarities arise between the forces, particularly institutional, and ways in which industrialization have constructed what appears to be parallels to ‘the inherited ghetto’ theory. My question hopes to draw out these similarities and differences around the structural forces that led to poverty becoming concentrated within the urban and rural context, as well as the tools/ resources each group had to combat such obstacles.
What I was left thinking about after the discussion where a few things. First, thinking about the structural challenges that differ between an urban and rural setting, and how this can affect the tools and resources available to the citizens (if one does not consider race). In Golden Valley the use of federal aid was not a taboo. Meanwhile in the urban setting, aide is regularly used. Does this have to do with the structural anonymity that is associated with city life verse a small rural town where there are few stores? Or is it a difference in cultural values? Or perhaps a difference in the who they blame for poverty and whether they feel deserving of “help”. Second, the type of survival strategies that develop in order to combat poverty. In Golden Valley, white citizens appear to develop an “us v them” mentality, and social capital becomes in ways more valuable than economic. How people view you (race, whether you receive aid, civic participation) matters a great deal more to one’s membership into society than the size of their waller. Lastly, the centrality of place. I saw a lot of parallels to the idea of “inheriting” where one was from. We talked about how many of us could see growing up our own desire to “get out” of the small town, city, suburb, etc we were from. There is an inherent desire for the “different” when we have the capital to choose for ourselves, however there is a pattern that people return to where they are from, or at least a similar place. Which could explain why those seem to remain in “ghetto” or “poverty” classified places. There appears to be an identity and value mapped onto these places that hold a special value.
Finally, the class discussion raised an interesting connection to the most recent Presidential election. In the last election, Trump was able to mobilize a significant population of populist and postmaterialist votes. People who were skeptical of outsiders, which sounds familiar to the concerns of the people of Golden Valley. Similar to the ways in which white poverty is “forgotten”, this voting block in the election felt their needs and values had been unheard by past elites. People were angry and wanted to be payed attention to. We weren’t able to discuss this much further, but it is an interesting idea and parallel.