What is rural? This is a question that was discussed numerous times over the 15th Annual International Comparative Rural Policy Studies (ICRPS) Summer Institute held at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama from June 24th to July 7th, 2018. Thanks to an invite from Dr. Phil Loring I was able to attend this Institute as a Ph.D. student from the University of Saskatchewan, joining other rural research-focused graduate students and faculty from countries including Spain, Finland, France, the UK, Nepal, Mexico, Italy, Ghana, Canada, and the United States.
Alabama was an ideal location for this year’s theme – Social Justice, Rural and Natural Resource Policy. Our Tuskegee University hosts were not only the epitome of southern hospitality, but they also arranged numerous engaging, poignant, and informative field trips that focused on the theme including visits to:
- • the Equal Justice Initiative National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama;
• the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Civil Rights Memorial Park in Selma, Alabama (visit our AMAZING tour guide’s Facebook page to see a few pictures of the ICRPS group https://www.facebook.com/TourSelma/);
• the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund Rural Training Center in Epes, Alabama;
• the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama; and
• the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.
Each of these field trips, and the many guest speakers who presented in the classroom, helped us better understand the concept of rural and rural issues in Alabama and the southern states. We also learned how these issues have been influenced by social justice initiatives, like the civil rights movement, and rural and natural resource policies at both the state and federal level.
An experience like this can not be adequately summed in a few hundred words. Thankfully, ICRPS participants took turns writing a daily blog post which can be read at http://2018.icrps.org/social-media.
Sandra Moore is a PhD candidate in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research is an ethnographic analysis of the socioeconomic impacts of oil and gas development in rural agrarian communities in southwest Saskatchewan. Sandra can be reached at email@example.com.