Bobcat traps and other theories

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Date
2024-05
Authors
Moore, Matthew Shane
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Marquart, Debra
Cook, Kenny
Withers, Jeremy
Krier, Daniel
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English
Abstract
The late-20th century has witnessed the decline of rural America. Deindustrialization, divestment, and economic crises have left rural spaces underdeveloped and mired in economic stagnancy; spaces that survive as little else but ruins. In the contemporary socio-political moment, rurality has come roaring back into popular discourse as resurgences in authoritarian and fascist ideologies—indexed by Trump’s election in the U.S.—have captured the imagination of white working-class men who reside in rural areas and who feel marginalized as a result of neoliberal economics, production paradigms of deskilling, and emerging cultural discourses around identity politics. Employing narrative modes of memoir, autoethnography, historiography, and research nonfiction, while subtending those modes with theoretical and sociological framings, Bobcat Traps and Other Theories represents a multiscalar auto-theoretical account of my upbringing in a small, working-class community in rural Missouri. Through personal essays, cultural criticism, and archival research, I make excursions into my past, and the historical past, to understand how whiteness, masculinity, and social class interact as cultural forms and agential forces within the ruins of rural space in the late-20th and early-21st centuries. I contend that it is only by first properly accounting for the seismic structural changes since 1974—the advent of neoliberalism, the construction of the Interstate Highway System, the consolidation of ecological destruction of agribusinesses, and the deindustrialization of the heartland—that we can then understand how whiteness and masculinity for the rural working-class have been parlayed into a culture that serves the reactionary movements in our contemporary political landscape. To demonstrate this, I counterpose the narrative of my past with a narrative of my acculturation as a first-generation student into middle-class spaces of academia where I began to confront the loss of my past self and the loss of my working-class origins.
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