You may begin exploring my ethnographic fieldwork by reviewing the project summaries below. For detailed information on particular areas of interest, you can select “Research” from the above menu and then “Research Interests” to see specific areas of interest. A selection of publications available for you to view may be found on the Publications page.
(Re) constructing West Virginia in the Post-Industrial Economic Order
Summer 2009 – Current – Tri-State Area, Huntington, West Virginia
The purpose of this research is to better understand changes in the way communities and individuals construct meaningful identity in light of broad changes in the economy intensified by global economic restructuring and deindustrialization.
Like Michigan communities where I have most recently worked, in the shadow of Detroit manufacturing, many parts of West Virginia are faced with increasing uncertainty and instability within the context of ongoing deindustrialization. This research aims to understand how communities react to finding themselves adrift in a competitive, globalizing world in which they are required to aggressively attract both physical and social capital in order to succeed. What strategies will these communities follow to recovery, if any? Despite a recent history of often bleak economic conditions, Tri-State communities are perfect places to conduct research on new forms of work, entrepreneurship, community building, and the marketing of place according to emerging cultural and economic models. At the same time, many West Virginia communities remain tied to extractive and other industries that expose people to significant, ongoing risk through economic as well as other dependencies. Thus, we find considerable tension between well-established and politically powerful models and those that challenge that status quo.
Life-style Migration, Refuge, and the Quest for Potential Selves in the Midwest’s Post-industrial Middle Class
Feb 2000 – Dec 2002; Summer 2010; Summer 2012 … Grand Traverse Region, Northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan, United States of America.
Summary: This project explores present-day social and structural transitions through examining the meaning of relocation in middle-class working families away from metropolitan areas to growing rural communities high in natural amenities. This relocation is a manner of negotiating building tension between personal experience with material demands in pursuit of a livelihood within the flexible, contingent new economy and cultural conventions for the good family and community life as a basis for defining individual character. Accounts of life-style migrants are part of a larger moral story of what constitutes the good life when basic social categories and cultural meanings are shifting. I argue that this migration is a continuation of long-standing American traditions of starting over rooted in a belief that we can remake ourselves through sheer force of will. At the same time, it is also a uniquely modern expression as people respond to challenges and opportunities of a flexible economy based increasingly on contingent work. I endeavor to present the material in a manner which documents everyday life such that readers can relate to the stories and reflect on their own lives.
Community Building Among Indonesian Transmigrants: The Challenges of Social and Ecological Sustainability
Jan – Dec 1998 … Kebupatan Bolaang Mongondow, Province of Northern Sulawesi, Republic of Indonesia.
Summary: This project examines a government resettlement program in order to explore different ways of looking at the idea of community and community building. Transmigration settlements are both planned and intentional communities. They are planned in accordance to government priorities, which intend them to serve in the building of an imagined community – a unified nation. They are also places where settlers struggle, following their own intent, to build their own personal, everyday vision of community as a place where they feel that they belong.