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Small-Town AmericaFinding Community, Shaping the Future$
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Robert Wuthnow

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691157207

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691157207.001.0001

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Community Spirit

Community Spirit

Small-Town Identities That Bind

(p.101) 4 Community Spirit
Small-Town America

Robert Wuthnow

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines what residents understand as the most important sources of community spirit in their towns. It is widely believed that small towns do encourage community participation, but the meanings of community spirit or its sources in towns' activities, such as homecoming festivals and events related to athletics, have rarely been studied. The chapter considers how narratives about the goodness and decency of a community are formulated, and how they reflect special occasions in which personal or collective tragedy is overcome. A key part of community spirit is the perception that acquaintances in town are in fact good neighbors. How neighborliness is demonstrated even through small greetings and sidewalk behavior is the secret behind these perceptions. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the stories that townspeople tell to combat negative stereotypes imposed on them by city people along with tales that emphasize the relative freedom, openness, and closeness to nature that small-town life provides.

Keywords:   community spirit, community, homecoming festivals, athletics, neighbors, neighborliness, stereotypes, nature, small-town life, small towns

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