Three national high poverty “hotspots” have been identified in southern Josephine County, Oregon. According to the Oregon DHS Office of Forecasting, Research, & Analysis in May 2015, a poverty hotspot is “a census tract or contiguous group of tracts with poverty rates of 20 percent or more.”
One of those hotspots is the area including the towns of Cave Junction, Kerby, O’Brien, and Williams. Unemployment here is high. For years, there was little law enforcement in the area because there was no tax money to pay officers. (Public safety levies have passed recently, adding law enforcement and emergency services.)
Northern Josephine county is home to several militia groups and patriot candidates are favored by city voters. Even though the state of Oregon voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Josephine county–thanks to its northern city voters and voting rural residents—decidedly supported the 45th POTUS.
I bought property in rural Josephine county, Oregon while selling my home in Richmond, California. I took possession of my new home and research site in Kerby on October 24, 2016. Like so many, the need to make sense of the massive changes happening in our country drives me, and the research follows.
Having been immersed in the complexities of this rural culture for 19 months–the richest, most difficult experience of my life–was (and continues to be) both personally and professionally transformative. Southern Josephine county is, at the same time, plentiful with possibility and swamped by its actuality. And it is full of people who want better than what exists currently.
This little Southwestern part of Oregon is its own strain of rural America. It also has a lot in common with rural America, generally. The fieldwork, field notes, autoethnographic notes, personal recordings, photographs, and recorded interviews documenting my personal experience in this U.S. rural culture since the 2016 election will be available in a variety of creative projects in 2019.