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Big House on the PrairieRise of the Rural Ghetto and Prison Proliferation$
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John M. Eason

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226410203

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226410487.001.0001

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“It’s Like the City, Only Quieter”: Making the Rural Ghetto

“It’s Like the City, Only Quieter”: Making the Rural Ghetto

(p.40) Three “It’s Like the City, Only Quieter”: Making the Rural Ghetto
Big House on the Prairie

John M. Eason

University of Chicago Press

I advance the notion of a rural ghetto in this chapter to suggest that processes like white flight, de-industrialization, and the expansion of public housing created a new form of inequality in communities like Forrest City. Borrowing from urban sociology, I detail how the rural ghetto has emerged as a post–Jim Crow form of subjugation instrumental to the prison boom. Through ethnographic and historical data, we came to understand firsthand how the Delta is deeply defined by systems of racial oppression. Before this respondent compared drug abuse, drug selling, and crime in her Forrest City neighborhood to Chicago, I did not make the experiential link between these communities. From here, I show how elements of concentrated disadvantage like murder rates and residential segregation provide a basis for considering how the ghetto concept applies to certain rural communities. More importantly, I suggest that just as there are urban ghettos, rural spaces of concentrated disadvantage should be understood as rural ghettos that have similar functions in rural ecology.

Keywords:   ghetto, public housing, concentrated poverty, white flight, deindustrialization, Jim Crow, residential segregation

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