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Place Matters, But How? Rural Identity, Environmental Decision Making, and the Social Construction of Place


*Correspondence should be addressed to Alison Hope Alkon, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616;


This article investigates the relationship between environmental policy and the social construction of place in two neighboring California counties. We examine two counties with dramatic geographic and sociodemographic differences that drew on similar place narratives in order to justify collaborative solutions to agricultural-environmental conflicts. Each narrative trumpets the importance of agriculture to each county's place character and praises the ability of well-intentioned county residents to work together. Our cases illuminate two processes through which place is socially constructed with regard to extralocal factors: place comparison allows residents to highlight potential risks by contrasting their own places with others while place meta-narratives allow actors to draw on culturally available notions of types of places. We conclude by discussing the relationship between place narratives and other factors that can affect policy choice, and therefore, shape the landscape itself.