Where Do We Go From Here? Rural Development and Gentrification in the Almaguin Highlands, Ontario
Michels, John F.
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This dissertation examines the gentrification of space in the Almaguin Highlands in rural Ontario, Canada. Although the Almaguin Highlands has long been home to small vacation cabins and cottages, it has recently begun to attract wealthy urban weekenders who build summer homes on a grander scale. As former farms and logging operations are transformed into newly accessible recreational, vacation, and residential destinations, both tensions and alliances arise between new residents, long-term residents, tourists, loggers, farmers, developers, and governmental officials over proper uses and meanings of rural space. My research examines the ways in which these different groups of people regard these changes and demonstrates how their views vary according to class or occupational position, but not always in predictable ways. In this dissertation I pursue the following four theoretical claims: First, rather than interpreting former farming and forestry sectors of the 21st century North American countryside as post-productive, they must be understood as spaces that encompass new kinds of production, including recreational, touristic, and residential development. The implications of this new service-oriented countryside include increased youth outmigration, decreasing full-time employment opportunities, and an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor in rural areas. Second, part of what drives rural gentrification in 21st century North America is a middle- and upper-class romanticized interpretation of nature. The result has been an increase in urban middle- and upper-class residents spending leisure time, or moving permanently, to the countryside. Third, rural gentrification, rather than mirroring urban lifestyle preferences, is a reflection of the class transformation of space related to cycles of capitalist investment. Many of the same processes involved in the gentrification of urban space apply to rural space and vice versa. Finally, neoliberalism, although often described as deregulatory, must also be understood as a re-regulatory process. Oftentimes, these new regulations work in the interests of large corporations and the elite.
nature and environment