Debt and Dispossession: Farm Loss in America's Heartland

Overview

"I never felt he left me or our marriage or the children. I felt he was leaving the farm problems." These words are from a woman reflecting on the farm crisis of the 1980s, the greatest economic disaster to hit rural America since the Depression. During this period, hundreds of thousands of farmers lost their farms and farm communities were irrevocably altered. As Kathryn Dudley demonstrates in this groundbreaking book, the crisis gave rise to a devastating social trauma that continues to affect farmers today. Through interviews with residents of ...
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Overview

"I never felt he left me or our marriage or the children. I felt he was leaving the farm problems." These words are from a woman reflecting on the farm crisis of the 1980s, the greatest economic disaster to hit rural America since the Depression. During this period, hundreds of thousands of farmers lost their farms and farm communities were irrevocably altered. As Kathryn Dudley demonstrates in this groundbreaking book, the crisis gave rise to a devastating social trauma that continues to affect farmers today. Through interviews with residents of an agricultural county in western Minnesota, Dudley chronicles the experience of financial failure in a culture that extols the virtues of independent business management, competitive production, and middle-class self-sufficiency.

Media images of the farm crisis fostered the impression that a majority of farmers banded together to protest the forced sales of neighboring farms. Dudley counters this misleading view with her perceptive analysis of the local "culture of suspicion" that rejects political activism, discourages solidarity among neighbors, and regards deeply indebted farmers as bad managers who deserve to lose their farms. Farming as a way of life turns out to be not a cultural refuge from the impersonal forces of capitalism, but emblematic of the very spirit of enterprise that animates a market-oriented society. With its focus on the moral dimension of economic loss and dislocation, this book raises far-reaching social questions: What does it take to be middle class in America? What kind of community is possible in a capitalist society?

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Editorial Reviews

Rural History
Dudley presents a subtle, insightful, and nuanced treatment of the rural 'community' itself, emphasizing its divisions and contradictions. . . . [A] very good and enlightening book. With Debt and Dispossession, Kathryn Dudley joins the ranks of such anthropologists as Jane Adams, Deborah Fink, and Sonya Salamon who are presently doing more than rural historians to illuminate the nature and texture of rural American society.

— David Danbom

Annals of Iowa
Dudley writes with rare skill and passion. This is a midstream account of America coming of age. Midwesterners are protagonists who may yet wrest a more satisfactory resolution, thanks to this superb contribution.

— Deborah Fink

Rural History - David Danbom
"Dudley presents a subtle, insightful, and nuanced treatment of the rural 'community' itself, emphasizing its divisions and contradictions. . . . [A] very good and enlightening book. With Debt and Dispossession, Kathryn Dudley joins the ranks of such anthropologists as Jane Adams, Deborah Fink, and Sonya Salamon who are presently doing more than rural historians to illuminate the nature and texture of rural American society."
Annals of Iowa - Deborah Fink
"Dudley writes with rare skill and passion. This is a midstream account of America coming of age. Midwesterners are protagonists who may yet wrest a more satisfactory resolution, thanks to this superb contribution."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226169132
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 211
  • Sales rank: 1,447,074
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Marie Dudley is assistant professor of American studies and anthropology at Yale University.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. Fragile Community
2. Farm Crisis
3. Moral Economy
4. Primal Scenes
5. White Crosses
6. Open Secrets
7. Social Trauma
8. The Last Farmer
Appendix: County Profile
Notes
Index

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