The Center for U.S. Rural Cultures Studies


The Center’s Purpose

Current Projects

The Center’s Background

The Center’s Private Principal Investigator

The Center’s Team

The Center’s Vision, Mission, Values, & Goals

The Reference Collection

The Center’s Purpose

Rural communities in the United States face enormous challenges and, currently, also exert considerable influence on the rest of the country and the rest of the world. Research communities interested in addressing rural cultural challenges have focused their efforts internationally, leaving U.S. rural communities without the cultural knowledge conventionally provided by research institutions. Much is written about the economics of U.S. rural places, but a focus on cultural norms and how humans grow in them is absent.

Our findings identify “everyday authoritarian” practices concentrated in two distinct, seemingly contrasting U.S. rural cultures. The Center recognizes the need–in any non-democratic power situation–to understand “power-stealing and power-hoarding” (everyday authoritarian) practices. The research also shows connections from everyday authoritarian practices to the social soil that grows state-level authoritarians and their practices. The Center understands that learning how to identify and navigate power relations in any context–with simple, functional sense-making tools–could not be more immediately important than it is in our current U.S. cultural condition.

Authoritarian practices have no place in a struggling democracy. Democracies require healthy social soil, which is created in human relations. In a democratic culture, relational power-sharing is fundamental, and democratic structures are meaningless without a human commitment to share power.

Without a mindful, devoted 
personal power-sharing practice,
everyday authoritarianism
invades and spreads,
killing any remaining
native democratic processes.

Power-stealing patterns
quietly poison
the social soil
in which democracies grow.
Our democracy dies
without our individual
power-sharing practices.
With them,
we create a new world.

At The Center for U.S. Rural Cultures Studies, we focus on understanding norms in the variety of rural cultures embodied by 60 million people in the United States. We seek to understand what’s normal in rural America. We work quietly–immersed in the field–to first understand each rural culture. Our research is designed to remain quiet, in the field, and focused on describing actual conditions. Our creative projects–which grow out of our field research findings–show how power moves in human relations, how change is possible, and how each person can help create healthy social soil.

We also avoid one-factor analysis; our attention is drawn to relations, which always already connect those factors. Indeed, those factors are functions of relations. Our research guides production of accessible cultural knowledge, creative products, and change tools to support rural populations in self-understanding and self-directed healthy change.

The Center’s work to embody, model, and promote democratic (power-sharing) relations in U.S. rural communities has long-term potential to change cultures at the relational level. There is currently no other academic, business, religious, political, or nonprofit research program or cultural work effort of this kind underway in the United States.