, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 137-149
Date: 04 Aug 2011

Doing masculinity: gendered challenges to replacing burley tobacco in central Kentucky

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Abstract

This paper offers a case study based on qualitative research in the burley tobacco region of central Kentucky, where farmers are urged to diversify away from tobacco production. “Replacing” tobacco is difficult for economic and material reasons, but also because raising tobacco is commensurate with a locally valued way of doing masculinity. The focus is on these two questions: How can the doing of work associated with tobacco production and marketing be understood as also doing a particular masculinity? What does an understanding of farm work as a simultaneous doing of gender illuminate about the challenges of diversification away from tobacco? Asking tobacco farmers to “grow something else” is also asking them to do gender differently, suggesting that the transition away from tobacco must be understood as a gendered transition. This research, focused primarily on male farmers who continue to raise tobacco, suggests the need for gendered research with women and men who have moved away from tobacco to other crops.