Center Projects

The Human Basis of Democracy: Relational Power-Sharing & Everyday Authoritarianism in U.S. Rural Cultures

Research/Cultural Work



In Progress

The Human Basis of Democracy: Relational Power-Sharing & Everyday Authoritarianism in Rural American Cultures is a nonfiction manuscript in progress that shares findings from 3.5 years’ anthropological ethnographic immersion–post-11.8.16–in two distinct rural cultures: Cave Junction, Oregon and Sea Ranch, California. At bottom, the book shows how the human commitment to share power founds democratic systems and processes.

The study’s method–framed in both process philosophy and anthropological ethnographic terms–is unique in its longevity in the field and total immersion protocols. Theoretically framed in terms generally reserved for urban cultural studies–but accessible to most audiences–the analysis of rural cultural norms and practices introduces newly relevant field-grounded concepts of powerrelations, and agency.

The study’s findings identify normal everyday authoritarian practices — relational power-stealing and -hoarding — in both rural cultures. The practices described have devastating impacts on human safety, trust, and well-being–the cultural enabling conditions that support democratic processes and systems. Also described is a generational orientation embodied by members of the two Rural American Cultures whose normal relational practices destroy natural resources and function to support state-level authoritarianism.

The Human Basis of Democracy puts the tools to understand and navigate power relations in every concerned U.S. American’s hands. Unapologetically a description of what’s democratically possible in the United States, the book makes recommendations for reclaiming stolen power, creating power-sharing relations, and producing new sources of power.

The book concludes with an argument for a national effort to collect “relational big data” in RAC as a national data-based effort to understand everyday authoritarian cultures and promote democratic practices through research-based cultural work efforts. Project background.

Research & Cultural Work

ON HOLD: Preparations are currently underway to continue “The Enabling Conditions Study” in Cave Junction, Oregon, tentatively scheduled for May 2020. Aimed at adding focused field observations and resident interviews to the 19 months of ethnographic and auto-ethnographic work. Community media and arts projects–grounded in research–will also begin.

The Sea Ranch Nonhuman Residents Project was an effort to demonstrate, model, and document relational reframing in a specific rural culture. The penultimate document for the theory-grounding project is here. “Loosening The Soil: The Cultural Work Part of U.S. Rural Cultures Studies,” is the accompanying article documenting rural cultural work in both Cave Junction, Oregon and Sea Ranch, California. Available mid-Spring 2020.

The Little Cottage that Looked Back” cultural work project has concluded, and it included assisting the former occupant of the property and will be described in the article, “Loosening the Soil: The Cultural Work Part of U.S. Rural Cultures Studies,” available late spring 2020. It is also a case study in The Human Basis of Democracy: Power-Sharing and Everyday Authoritarianism in U.S. Rural Cultures, available Spring 2021.

The Center’s Media & Educational Projects

ON HOLD: The Center’s bi-monthly newsletter publication, The Rural Portal Project, keeps subscribers up to date on Center projects and events.

ON HOLD: An extension of the RPP electronic publication is also in development as an educational podcast called, “Voices from the Rural Portal.” The 30-minute program will provide a forum rural-urban interactions in various forms.

“From the Field” Rural Workshop Series (September 2020)

Understanding Power: Everyday Authoritarianism in White Rural Cultures

Total Immersion Protocols: Rural Field Research Practices

Stereotypes & Assumptions: Rural U.S. Americans

Forward Momentum: Escaping White Rural Poverty

“Race War Coming”: Guns, NRA, and Rural America