Youth, Dirt, and the Spatialization of Subjectivity: An Intersectional Approach to White Rural Imaginaries

  • Kate Cairns


Abstract. Canada’s rural idyll is embedded within the colonial legacy of a white settler society; however, little research has examined how class and gender uphold this articulation of rurality and whiteness. This article draws on ethnographic research with white, working-class rural youth to develop an intersectional analysis of rural imaginaries. The analysis shows how youth construct their own rural identities through racialized representations of urban and global “others.” I argue that these racist place-narratives must be understood in the context of competing discourses of rurality in Canada: the romanticized pure white rural of colonial history, and the pathologized poor white rural of a cosmopolitan future. Even as youth locate their gendered performances within the rural idyll, they are marked as “dirts” by their classed, rural status. By inscribing racist discourses onto others, youth resist the classist imagery projected onto their community and thereby re- claim a pure white rural idyll.