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The re-accomplishment of place in twentieth century Vermont and New Hampshire: history repeats itself, until it doesn’t

Abstract

Much recent literature plumbs the question of the origins and trajectories of “place,” or the cultural development of space-specific repertoires of action and meaning. This article examines divergence in two “places” that were once quite similar but are now quite far apart, culturally and politically speaking. Vermont, once considered the “most Republican” state in the United States, is now generally considered one of its most politically and culturally liberal. New Hampshire, by contrast, has remained politically and socially quite conservative. Contrasting legacies of tourist promotion, political mobilization, and public policy help explain the divergence between states. We hypothesize that emerging stereotypes about a “place” serve to draw sympathetic residents and visitors to that place, thus reinforcing the salience of those stereotypes and contributing to their reality over time. We term this latter process idio-cultural migration and argue its centrality to ongoing debates about the accomplishment of place. We also elaborate on several means by which such place “reputations” are created, transmitted, and maintained.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Molotch et al. (2000, p. 816) refer to the contribution of “selective migration” in the accomplishment of place but skirt its actual mechanics. They do note, as do we, that “demographers typically ignore” it.

  2. 2.

    While the Census and Current Population Survey include raw mobility data and some attitudinal data, both focus almost exclusively on economic motives for moving—housing prices, property taxes, and the like. The Census includes data on which states migrants moved from, but this too reveals little about why they chose to move. The Current Population Survey (CPS) only began asking respondents questions about inter-state migrants’ motives for moving in 1997, and the data collapse virtually all motives beyond work, family, or housing-related reasons to a residual “other reasons” category (US Census 2001) with four options: attending college; for a change of climate; health reasons; and “other reasons.” The percentage of respondents indicating this last residual category varied between 3% and 6% in the CPS national sample, 1997–2000.

  3. 3.

    Alternatively, one might imagine some exogenous change in out-of-state residents’ preferences that suddenly makes a given place more appealing than before, though this seems unlikely without contemporaneous endogenous change in the place in question.

  4. 4.

    Census data from 2000 show both states converging toward similar percentages of their workforce in each of three main categories—“professional, managerial, clerical, and service occupations,” “manual, industrial, and craft occupations,” and “farm-related occupations” — for example.

  5. 5.

    New Hampshire does have a quarterly survey of public opinion administered by the University of New Hampshire, the Granite State Poll, but the survey has only been in existence for a dozen years and its raw data are only available since 2000. Despite longstanding talk of establishing a similar poll in Vermont, there appear to be no concrete plans to do so at this time.

  6. 6.

    We analyzed gubernatorial election and party primary data but found them far too sensitive to candidate-specific perturbations to be of much use, trendwise.

  7. 7.

    These data precede the legalization of gay marriage in either state. The sexual preference of members of these households is only interpolated from demographic information given in Census returns, however; it should be read with some skepticism.

  8. 8.

    Data from US Census Bureau website, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/h08b.html June 22, 2007. The data are derived from the 2004 to 2006 “Annual Social and Economic Supplements” of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

  9. 9.

    Site accessed June 22, 2007. 2005 state population figures are from the US Census Bureau. New Hampshire population = 1,309,940, Vermont = 623,050.

  10. 10.

    <www.theorganicpages.com> accessed June 22, 2007.

  11. 11.

    Store locator accessed at <www.benjerry.com> on June 22, 2007.

  12. 12.

    Store locator accessed at <www.dairyqueen.com> on June 29, 2007.

  13. 13.

    Store locator accessed at <www.birkenstockusa.com> on June 22, 2007.

  14. 14.

    Store locator accessed at <www.harley-davidson.com> on June 29, 2007.

  15. 15.

    Store locator accessed at <www.smith-wesson.com> on June 29, 2007. This may not be representative of gun-ownership as a whole; on-line listings of gun stores are sociological quicksand, and most major gun manufacturers do not list dealer information.

  16. 16.

    These were short, informal interviews largely conducted via telephone. These results are not in any way intended to be “representative” but are merely illustrative examples of first-hand statements consistent with our own hypotheses and observations. Since the length and extent of interviews varied greatly—many were based on “cold-calls”—it is difficult to name and codify them as a whole. Quotes are not verbatim; some paraphrasing and re-construction is employed here, though nothing that would distort speakers’ intended meaning.

  17. 17.

    <www.vermontlife.com> accessed March 1, 2008 and April 10, 2008.

  18. 18.

    <www.nhmagazine.com> accessed April 10, 2008.

  19. 19.

    Both sites accessed April 10, 2008.

  20. 20.

    No date is provided anywhere on the manuscript, though library archivists date it to this decade.

  21. 21.

    A similar bill was proposed in New Hampshire, it should be noted, but defeated in the state legislature; the New Hampshire Supreme Court similarly overturned several anti-growth ordinances adopted by New Hampshire towns.

  22. 22.

    As of April, 2008, the Free State Project reported having obtained letters of commitment from 1,033 would-be migrants. < www.freestateproject.org/intro/first1000> accessed April 24, 2008.

  23. 23.

    It is worth noting that many of America’s other prominent skiing states are quite conservative, politically speaking—Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, for example.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Paul Lachelier—an early and important research assistant on this project—as well as Dick Winters, Frank Bryan, Brian Steensland (originator of the Ben & Jerry’s/Dairy Queen index of socio-cultural affairs), Andrea Campbell, John Campbell, Kristin Peterson-Ishaq and the Center for Research on Vermont at the University of Vermont, Theda Skocpol, Kenneth T. Andrews, David Grazian, Jennifer Lena, the Center for American Political Studies (CAPS) at Harvard University, Matt Wray, Andrew Perrin, Lyn Spillman, John Skrentny, John Harney, Frank Dobbin, Nathan Wright, Michele Lamont, Gary Alan Fine, Harvey Molotch, Karen Lucas, and the Editors and reviewers of Theory and Society, as well as audiences at the University of Arizona, University of Michigan, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Harvard University.

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Kaufman, J., Kaliner, M.E. The re-accomplishment of place in twentieth century Vermont and New Hampshire: history repeats itself, until it doesn’t. Theor Soc 40, 119–154 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-010-9132-2

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Keywords

  • Migration
  • Culture
  • American politics