RUS 2 Presentations

Session Title: The Right to Be Rural

Organizers: Satenia Zimmermann/Jennifer Jarman

Chair: Karen Foster/Jennifer Jarman

Research Cluster Affiliation: Rural Sociology

Date: Tuesday, June 1st

Time: 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (MT) 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm (ET)

Location: Virtual 1

Session Description:

Many rural communities are currently facing a complex array of demographic, social, economic, environmental, and political challenges. This session explores the nature and consequences of some of these changes both in terms of consideration for the ways researchers of the rural should be designing their research and in terms of exploring some of the most critical research areas such as out-migration, the creation of rural capital of various types, access of rural farmers to resources, the social consequences of different rural food procurement strategies, and the socio-economic consequences of disease on patients and families in rural areas.

Abstracts in order of presentation:

Title: Fighting for the Right to Rural Education

Author: Hannah Main

From 2009 to 2018, over 30 primary and secondary schools in Nova Scotia were slated for closure by the province’s school boards, many of these due to declining rural enrolment. These school closure decisions were not accepted by everyone, though. In many areas, residents resisted school closure decisions affecting their community. In one community, parents and other local residents successfully fought to keep a small rural school open through years of activism. Through a case study of this contested rural school, this paper explores the concept of a right to rural education. In this study of a grassroots movement to save a school, this paper reveals the ways in which policy-makers’ priorities and values clash with the priorities and values of rural residents. The conflict around school closures both reveals and challenges assumptions about who has a right to schooling. Ultimately, the conflict around school closures reveals the limitations of hegemonic neoliberal ideas of fairness and efficiency.

Title: Lending a Helping Hand: Understanding Volunteer Practices for University Students and Their Communities

Author: Fab Antonelli

The “right to be rural” can be understood in part as the possibility for rural communities to provide supports for citizens in their daily living.  As neoliberal pressures strain vital community services, volunteering often takes up the slack. Volunteering as a social practice is associated with personal development and the impact on community sustainability and growth. Studies point to the contradictory moments of volunteerism as a career-building practice (i.e. credentialing for c.v. development) with the social functions of community engagement.  This contradiction is exacerbated in light of current neoliberal practices shrinking the welfare state while rolling out an ideology of individualism (Holdsworth & Brewis, 2013). This paper will present findings from interviews with 15 university students from a small Maritime town exploring why students volunteer, the impact volunteering has on their identity and career, and their connectedness to the small towns they inhabit. These understandings could better anticipate the intentions and expectations of youth in volunteering and shed light on the possibilities for community growth and development through community engagement. Moreover, this paper will present the potential of small towns to gain in strength and development through the volunteer practices of traditionally transient yet well-educated and connected populations.

Title: Investigating the Impact and Integration of Rural Ontario Craft Breweries Within the Host Community

Author: Brad Ross

There has been an explosion in the prevalence of rural Canadian craft breweries. As these breweries continue to emerge and develop, there is an obvious need for an in-depth investigation of a brewery’s holistic impact on its community, including its role in local economic development, community and food system sustainability, and contribution to rural community resiliency. For the purposes of this investigation, the researcher will employ a nested mixed-methods approach, which will utilize survey data to provide insight regarding the demographics of rural craft beer drinkers and identify possible trends of influence. This will be complemented by semi-structured one-on-one interviews with community members and brewery staff to gain a deeper understanding of the brewery’s impact on emerging themes, which may include but is certainly not limited to rural resiliency, community identity, youth retention, local tourism, gentrification, industrialization, and the participant/community’s relationship with alcohol. Additionally, the researcher will reference the Community Capitals Framework (see Emery & Flora, 2006) to analyze possible developments within each of the identified forms of capital. It is expected that the findings from this research will prove beneficial to a multitude of people, including rural community members, craft brewers, policymakers, and rural researchers.

Title: Beating Broke by Getting Out? Examining the Relationship Between Personal Debt and Community-Outmigration

Author: Alyssa Gerhardt

Scholarship on young people’s geographical mobilities tells us that young adults move away from their childhood communities for a complex mix of economic “push-pull” reasons, relationships, aspirations, attachments to place, identity and belonging. In this abundant research, particularly that which focuses on youth outmigration from rural and peripheral communities, there is surprisingly little attention paid to an issue that is top-of-mind for many young adults today: personal debt. In this paper, we draw insights from extant literature on youth mobilities to make the case for a greater examination of the role of personal debt in young people’s migration decisions. We hypothesize that youth and debt increase a person’s likelihood of moving away from peripheral regions. We test this hypothesis using data from a 2019 survey of Atlantic Canadians and find some support for it, and some interesting nuance, suggesting that there is good reason to examine debt’s role in youth mobilities in greater detail.