Category Archives: Rural Issues

New Book: The Long Land War

LLWNew Book: Jo Guldi, The Long Land War: The Global Struggle for Occupancy Rights (2022). Overview below:

A definitive history of ideas about land redistribution, allied political movements, and their varied consequences around the world

“An epic work of breathtaking scope and moral power, The Long Land War offers the definitive account of the rise and fall of land rights around the world over the last 150 years.” —Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Jo Guldi tells the story of a global struggle to bring food, water, and shelter to all. Land is shown to be a central motor of politics in the twentieth century: the basis of movements for giving reparations to formerly colonized people, protests to limit the rent paid by urban tenants, intellectual battles among development analysts, and the capture of land by squatters taking matters into their own hands. The book describes the results of state-engineered “land reform” policies beginning in Ireland in 1881 until U.S.-led interests and the World Bank effectively killed them off in 1974.

The Long Land War provides a definitive narrative of land redistribution alongside an unflinching critique of its failures, set against the background of the rise and fall of nationalism, communism, internationalism, information technology, and free-market economics. In considering how we could make the earth livable for all, she works out the important relationship between property ownership and justice on a changing planet.

-Editor’s Note: I just finished reading a number of chapters of the book and can recommend this book as a book that will force you to think though things even though I don’t think readers will necessarily agree with all of the book’s arguments or sources of content given the ambitions of the book. In other words, it is interesting with lots of things that U.S. readers will likely find as “new” and worth thinking through even if there are parts of the book that annoyed me–for being too dogmatic/one-sided–as well.

New Book: “The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America”

the-fight-to-save-the-town-9781501195983_lgNew Book: Michelle Wilde Anderson, The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America (2022). Overview below:

A sweeping and authoritative study of wealth inequality and the dismantling of local government in four working-class cities across the US that passionately argues for reinvestment in people-centered leadership.

Decades of cuts to local government amidst rising concentrations of poverty have wreaked havoc on communities left behind by the modern economy. Some of these discarded places are rural. Others are big cities, small cities, or historic suburbs. Some vote blue, others red. Some are the most diverse communities in America, while others are nearly all white, all Latino, or all Black. All are routinely trashed by outsiders for their poverty and their politics. Mostly, their governments are just broke. Forty years after the anti-tax revolution began protecting wealthy taxpayers and their cities, our high-poverty cities and counties have run out of services to cut, properties to sell, bills to defer, and risky loans to take.

In The Fight to Save the Town, urban law expert and author Michelle Wilde Anderson offers unsparing, humanistic portraits of the hardships left behind in four such places. But this book is not a eulogy or a lament. Instead, Anderson travels to four blue-collar communities that are poor, broke, and progressing. Networks of leaders and residents in these places are facing down some of the hardest challenges in American poverty today. In Stockton, California, locals are finding ways, beyond the police department, to reduce gun violence and treat the trauma it leaves behind. In Josephine County, Oregon, community leaders have enacted new taxes to support basic services in a rural area with fiercely anti-government politics. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, leaders are figuring out how to improve job security and wages in an era of backbreaking poverty for the working class. And a social movement in Detroit, Michigan is pioneering ways to stabilize low-income housing after a wave of foreclosures and housing loss.

Our smallest governments shape people’s safety, comfort, and life chances. For decades, these governments have no longer just reflected inequality—they have helped drive it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Anderson argues that a new generation of local leaders are figuring out how to turn poverty traps back into gateway cities.


Upcoming Event: Rural Water Justice

rural-water-flyer ImageUpcoming event: Rural Water Justice.

The final event in the RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE series turns to the heartbreak—and hope—of rural water systems, with a panel of experts and advocates led by Priya Baskaran, an Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Entrepreneurship Law Clinic at from American University Washington College of Law, whose work, Thirsty Places, compares water insecurity in Flint, Michigan, and southern West Virginia.

Professor Baskaran will be joined for this panel by:

  • Camille Pannu, the inaugural director of the Aoki Water Justice Clinic at UC Davis College of Law and currently co-director of the Community and Economic Development Clinic, at UC Irvine School of Law. As a community lawyer with an explicit racial and economic justice lens, Professor Pannu works to ensure provision of safe and affordable water, particularly in rural California.
  • Oday Salim, an adjunct clinical assistant professor of law and director of the Environmental Law & Sustainability Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, as well as an attorney at the National Wildlife Federation in its Great Lakes Regional Center. In addition to his expertise in Great Lakes region water issues, Professor Salim has experience working with mid-Atlantic communities impacted by fracking.
  • Katherine Garvey, teaching associate professor and director of the Land Use and Sustainability Law Clinic at West Virginia University College of Law. Professor Garvey is an expert and land and water issues in Appalachia and has worked on environmental protection at both local and federal levels.

This panel will be hosted via Zoom on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:30pm CT. Scholars and stakeholders from diverse institutions and disciplines are welcome and invited to attend. Register directly here:

News Coverage: “Homeless for 9 months with a budget of $1,800, Buena Vista resident navigates the housing crisis”

Ice PondNews Coverage: Amanda Horvath & Alexis Kikoen, Homeless for 9 months with a budget of $1,800, Buena Vista resident navigates the housing crisis, Rocky Mountain PBS, Dec. 16, 2021.

Editor’s Note: This article features a good 10 minute video as well. Buena Vista is my hometown–the closest place of any size to the cabin where I was born and where I still return on vacations. I thought this was a great presentation of small, rural town in transition. My mother is a bus driver in this town and four years ago it was possible to imagine buying her a small apartment or hou

se but the town is in the midst of a radical change that will price residents out of the town. Much of the increase is tied to the rise of Denver and people in Denver and beyond seeking a getaway location. Prior to the inflow of money, Buena Vista was a perfect town with some rough edges–manageable size, close community (they do an annual all town potluck down the main street and host a burro race every year). Now it is in many ways too “perfect” and those who call Buena Vista home and have to work are getting priced out. Anyway, though it is about one small town, I thought the story and video are very well done.

New Book: Investing in Rural Prosperity

InvestingRural_300pxNew Book: Investing in Rural Prosperity (Andrew Dumont & Daniel Paul Davis eds., Fed. Res. Bank of St. Louis, 2021). Overview of the book below:

Investing in Rural Prosperity, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, seeks to help rural individuals and communities achieve shared economic prosperity. By outlining a framework for how to approach rural development successfully and showcasing stories of progress in different communities—as well as highlighting recommendations for action by policymakers, practitioners, funders and researchers—the editors and authors hope to advance this important goal.

The book includes contributions from 79 authors in the United States and abroad, representing financial institutions, nonprofits, philanthropies, academia and government agencies. The chapters touch on a wide range of topics, including entrepreneurship support, workforce development, energy efficient manufactured housing, and digital inclusion. The book delves into the challenges of our past and the promise of our future. Ultimately, Investing in Rural Prosperity is a call to action, so we can realize that promise—together.

Related podcast and other materials here.

Call-for-papers: Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains: Confronting our Past, Reimagining our Future

Call-for-papers: Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains: Confronting our Past, Reimagining our Future

UNL’s Center for Great Plains Studies is hosting, April 6-8, 2022, a three-day summit called Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains: Confronting our Past, Reimagining our Future, which features keynotes by Walter Echo-Hawk, Hannibal Johnson, Tristan Ahtone (of the land-grab universities reporting project!), Tara Houska, Jerilyn DeCoteau, and others; additional academic presentations; and a series of more creative and interactive cultural events.

The open Call for Proposals invites presentations, panels, or other session ideas on a wide range on related themes, with particular attention to land dispossession and return, racial violence and repair, and environmental harm and justice. Proposals due October 25, 2021. Further details about the Call – as well as more event information – here:

New Article: One Child Town: The Health Care Exceptionalism Case against Agglomeration Economies

New Article: Elizabeth Weeks, One Child Town: The Health Care Exceptionalism Case against Agglomeration Economies, forthcoming Utah L. Rev. Abstract below:

This Article offers an extended rebuttal to the suggestion to move residents away from dying communities to places with greater economic promise. Rural America, arguably, is one of those dying places. A host of strategies aim to shore up those communities and make them more economically viable. But one might ask, “Why bother?” In similar vein, David Schleicher’s provocative 2017 Yale Law Journal article, Stuck! The Law and Economics of Residential Stagnation urged dismantling a host of state and local government laws operating as barriers to migration by Americans from failing economies to robust agglomeration economies. But Schleicher said little about the fate of the places left behind. Schleicher’s article drew a number of pointed responses, urging the value and preservation of Small Town America. But those arguments failed fully to meet the rational economic thesis, countering instead with more sentimental or humanitarian concerns. This article offers a way to reconcile the two views, refracted through a health care lens. Health care is a particularly apt perspective for considering the question whether America’s rural places are worth saving because it necessarily, under longstanding U.S. policy preferences, walks the line between the economic principles and human rights; individual responsibility and communitarian values; the rational actor and the deserving recipient of aid. The health care exceptionalism case against agglomeration economies urges consideration of the real, quantifiable costs of migration and, correlatively, value of home, as well as the market imperfections inherent in health care and, even more so, in rural health care.

News Coverage: The Tragedy of America’s Rural Schools

News Coverage: Casey Parks, The Tragedy of America’s Rural Schools, N.Y. Times, Sept. 7, 2021.

-Thanks to Lisa Pruitt for the heads up! Well worth reading.

New Article: “Investigating Access to Justice, the Rural Lawyer Shortage, and Implications for Civil and Criminal Legal Systems”

New Article: Lisa R. Pruitt & Andrew Davies, Investigating Access to Justice, the Rural Lawyer Shortage, and Implications for Civil and Criminal Legal Systems, Research Methods for Rural Criminologists (2022 Forthcoming). Abstract below:

Access to justice (A2J) is associated with a number of metrics aimed at assessing the extent to which people enjoy equal access to courts, including pre-trial means for resolving disputes. While the concept is typically associated with civil justice systems, many factors associated with that context overlap with criminal justice system concerns. Central among these and of growing significance in the rural context is a worsening attorney shortage. When lawyers are not readily available, A2J is undermined, and costs to litigants and courts rise.

Many quantitative factors measured in relation to A2J are unidimensional and have limited ability to reveal the full complexity of impediments to accessing legal processes. Simple metrics include attorney counts and caseload data. In both the civil and criminal contexts, the more revealing studies deploy mixed methods; in studying indigent defense, interviews with key stakeholders have proved particularly effective. Surveys of litigants, attorneys, and judges have proved highly informative, too, especially in rural settings without infrastructure for tracking data. Ethnographic research remains rare in both criminal and civil contexts. Meanwhile, law scholars often frame their work more explicitly in terms of constitutional and other legal issues, e.g., attorney ethics, implicated by access.

This chapter, written for an anthology on Research Methods for Rural Criminologists, begins with a broad introduction to A2J. Next, it turns a geographic lens on the A2J landscape, highlighting spatial and place-specific issues as a prelude to discussing rural deficits, including the lawyer shortage. The chapter concludes by discussing rural criminal justice, with a focus on indigent defense. Tribal courts are beyond the scope of this chapter.

New Article: Legal Landscapes, Migrant Labor, and Rural Social Safety Nets in Michigan

Emily Profile, Legal Landscapes, Migrant Labor, and Rural Social Safety Nets in Michigan, L. and Soc. Inquiry (forthcoming 2021). Abstract below:

In the 1960s, farmers pressed trespass charges against aid workers providing assistance to agricultural laborers living on the farmers’ private property. Some of the first court decisions to address these types of trespass, such as the well-known and frequently taught State v. Shack (1971), limited the property rights of farmers and enabled aid workers to enter camps where migrants lived. Yet there was a world before Shack, a world in which farmers welcomed onto their land rural religious groups, staffed largely by women from the local community, who provided services to migrant workers. This article uses Michigan as a case study to examine the informal safety net those rural women created and how it ultimately strengthened the very economic and legal structures that left agricultural workers vulnerable. From the 1940s through the 1960s, federal, state, and local law left large gaps in labor protections and government services for migrant agricultural laborers in Michigan. In response, church women created rural safety nets that mobilized local generosity and provided aid. These informal safety nets also policed migrant morality, maintained rural segregation, and performed surveillance of community outsiders, thereby serving the farmers’ goals of having a reliable and cheap labor force.