[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]
A hundred miles across Interstate 90, just on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountain range, one finds a small, rural predominantly white town with deep cultural and economic ties embedded in the traditions of the West. Despite its proximity to the chiefly blue city of Seattle, this county persists as a Republican center of Trump politics, with political representation that consistently opposes the progressive ideologies of nearby urban areas. Within this community exists a mobile home community; a small cohort of low-income, hard-working, primarily Latino families that labor in minimum wage positions to help propel the local economy and provide for their families. Due to the lack of economic opportunities in the area, many of these Latino families are unable to afford their own homes, and resort to renting plots of land in the mobile home community to create a place to call their own. In April of 2016, tenants of these plots were devastated to learn that the local county government had negotiated a sale agreement of the land that their homes reside on, purportedly to accommodate fairground space for the annual county fair. The community effectively faced impending eviction.
My ethnographic research seeks to explore the unfolding local housing crisis taking place in this trailer park in rural Washington, and to assess the social processes that construct the ethnic and minoritized experience in America. Other analyses of similar populations have pointed to structural violence and marginalization as a significant factor shaping the lived experience and sense of identity that typify minoritized individuals in rural communities across the nation (Wells, 1975). I plan to speak with residents of the mobile home community, their institutional allies, and county representatives to investigate whether the experiences of this predominantly Latino mobile home community are consistent with the narratives of other marginalized populations in rural areas. Through the use of semi-structured interviews conducted in both English and Spanish, I hope to reveal many of the significant social and cultural processes related to race and ethnicity that take place in rural America but are continuously overlooked in sociology and the national dialogue concerning race in our country.