Ethnography of Rural North America

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Abstract

This article surveys the history of anthropological research in rural North America in the 20th and 21st centuries. Anthropologists have studied rural North America since at least the 1920s, when the Rockefeller Foundation funded SSRC spurred inter-disciplinary research on a range of social issues, developing the “community studies” approach. Anthropologists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture were integral to New Deal rural studies. After WWII, funding dried up and aside from studies in the peripheral regions of Appalachia and the Ozarks, economically-driven positivist studies dominated the rural social sciences. Beginning in the 1960s, with rural America radically transformed by the massive post-WWII capitalization of agriculture, ethnographers used new research paradigms in ecological, feminist, political economic, interpretive, and historical anthropology to again study North American farming and rural communities.

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