Revitalization in the Alabama Black Belt: Cultivation of a New Civic Hegemony in Rural Main Street America
Date of Award
M.A. in Anthropology
One Alabama Black Belt community has sought to re-imagine itself as a future affluent space for new families, tourists, and diasporic communities—despite regional challenges—by supplanting traditional discourses and centering a new civic hegemony within local revitalization efforts. This research and thesis draws upon qualitative ethnographic methods: participant observation and interviews conducted in Marion, Alabama. Located in Perry County, Marion has approximately 3,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are African-American. Marion was designated as a Main Street Community (June 2017) and began a series of revitalization initiatives to increase community pride and project confidence about future growth. The National Main Street Center's program known as "Main Street America" (MSA) is dedicated to cultivating economic and preservation-based movements that leverage public/private investment to catalyze grassroots development projects in town centers. Using Laclau and Mouffe's post-structuralist political theory, I argue that the MSA program in Marion exemplifies the building of a 'chain of equivalence' and the forging of a new civic hegemony to mitigate local crises related to depopulation, cyclical poverty, and differential access to resources. Marion's local revitalization efforts highlight the rise of a new hegemonic discourse and social imaginary spearheaded by grassroots nonprofits like Main Street Marion. The application of this research could open the door towards building collective agency in grassroots development across disciplines and communities. This thesis' purpose is to posit a new perspective on the levels and development of cultural hegemony by contributing to the interdisciplinary literature on the Black Belt region of the U.S. South.
Mize, Martha Grace Lowry, "Revitalization in the Alabama Black Belt: Cultivation of a New Civic Hegemony in Rural Main Street America" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2032.