Social Identity Influences in Two Small Australian Rural Communities

PhD by Publication

Ham, Saleena. 2022. Social Identity Influences in Two Small Australian Rural Communities. PhD by Publication Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Social Identity Influences in Two Small Australian Rural Communities

TypePhD by Publication
AuthorHam, Saleena
1. FirstProf Peter McIlveen
2. SecondDr Geoffrey Woolcock
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages259
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Social identity in rural communities can explain the common tendency to resist change. Well-established social identity theory identifies how membership of social groups influences beliefs and behaviours. This qualitative social research gathered real-world data from two anonymous small rural communities in regional Queensland, Australia. Eighty-nine interviews with residents were transcribed verbatim and coded for social identity phenomena using Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis framework. Social groups define themselves with unique qualities. Insiders must comply with those qualities to belong and be trusted. There is a limited range of social groups in small communities and well-defined social hierarchies, reflected in local narratives of who has social legitimacy and privilege. In this research, those with highest status are referenced as Locals and the founding Old Families or Originals. Insiders in small rural communities will defend identity boundaries against newcomers or outsiders whose new ideas and proposals are framed as a disruption to established sociocultural norms. Defence includes social censure (i.e., exclusion, shame or blame or derision talk) and personal attack, extending to associates (family members and friends). Social censure is aversive; newcomers are mindful that to challenge the community’s dominant norms and narratives, implicitly or explicitly, is to risk being socially unsafe. Being socially censured in a small community, where there is little compartmentalisation, is of immediate and long-term consequence. Such social dynamics anchor the community within a relatively rigid and narrow master narrative of acceptable local identity and hold the status quo. It potentially undermines the community capacity for positive change, revitalisation and resilience. Mechanisms to foster change include supporting additional narratives under the radar, building social support networks for divergent local leaders, and fostering personal connections across the marginalised social sets. Building personal exposure to diversity, framed as non-threatening can foster a sense of social certainty and belonging, as part of a legitimate celebrated broader identity of the rural community.

Keywordsrural community, social identity, change resistance
Related Output
Has part“Who do they think they are?”: social identity & conflict in small rural community
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020520501. Community psychology
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsRural Economies Centre of Excellence
Permalink -

Download files

Published Version

Restricted files

Published Version

  • 36
    total views
  • 21
    total downloads
  • 1
    views this month
  • 2
    downloads this month

Export as