Big Brother in rural societies: Youths' discourses on gossip

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The article examines the rural discourse among rural and urban youths. The ‘rural' is not seen as a fixed reality, but as a constructed and contested concept. The article is based on essays and focus group interviews with youths in a comprehensive school. The youths construct the ‘rural' by contrasting it with the ‘urban'. ‘Safe and good' is found to be a general representation of rural life. The feeling of security is closely related to the idea of visibility, that ‘everybody knows everybody' in small communities. The youths stress, however, a negative aspect of the visibility, as it facilitates mechanisms of social control such as gossip and rural justice. Girls are more concerned than boys with the limitations this puts upon rural life. Visibility is found to be a premise for the representation of the countryside as ‘safe and good', while at the same time visibility allows informal social control. The article focuses on the balance between freedom and informal social control, between visibility and lack of privacy in rural areas. The narratives of the rural are explained in terms of the relationships between expectations and representations of social processes in small-scale communities.

Keywords: countryside; gender; gossip; informal social control; rural narratives

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2006

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