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Madison Cates

Ph. D. Candidate, History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

This project seeks to understand the complex politics of land use and economic development in shaping the rise of the Sunbelt South after 1945. With the quickening pace of rural depopulation and white flight to the suburbs during this time, planners and policymakers worked feverishly to boost the economic fortunes of places left behind. However, economic growth brought pitfalls as well for urban and rural communities. Namely, massive public works projects, urban renewal, and pollution-heavy industries threatened to destroy many southern landscapes. Thus, Cates’s work seeks to answer: how did a diverse cast of southerners try to reconcile their desire to attract decent paying jobs with their attachments to their traditional senses of place and community life?

Using individual case studies from the Mountain and Lowcountry Souths, this research shows how grassroots struggles over land use and development contained broader implications for changing constructions of race and place in the United States. Whereas the general trajectory of the existing scholarship emphasizes the ideological shifts that followed suburbanization, this work seeks to shift the focus of the field to the material transformations that linked rural, urban, and suburban areas.