Construction of Place Among Residents of Rural Areas of Virginia



Dougherty, Dakota

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This thesis is about rural Virginia and the perceptions of it among its residents. This research is theoretically grounded in the sociological and geographical literature on place. My approach to place follows the two main assertions of Gieryn (2000). First, that place has three components: it is a “geographic location” (Gieryn 2000:464); it has “material form” (Gieryn 2000:465); and it has an “investment with meaning and value” (Gieryn 2000:465). Second, place is an important area of sociological inquiry because while it is constructed socially, it has real significance (Gieryn 2000). This research examines what is important in rural Virginia residents’ perceptions of the places in which they live because as Gieryn (2000:465), informed by Soja (1996 as cited in Gieryn 2000:465), points out, perceptions are an important component of place meaning. To study this, I conducted interviews with residents of rural Virginia. From this data, I find that both physical and non-physical aspects of the places they live are important to residents. This study contributes to the sociological understandings of place, which is important because place tends to be understudied in sociology (Morris 2012:33). This study is exploratory, and its main contribution is that it opens up important areas for potential research on place, including the effects of the changing built environment in the face of growth and development as well as further research on the complexity underlying the themes of the physical and non-physical environment in what makes places meaningful to the people who live in them.



Rural, Place, Virginia, Meaning