Social-identity dynamics in rural communities: A motive for resistance to change

Article


Ham, Saleena. 2022. "Social-identity dynamics in rural communities: A motive for resistance to change." The Rangeland Journal. 44 (5-6), p. 299–307. https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ22023
Article Title

Social-identity dynamics in rural communities: A motive for resistance to change

ERA Journal ID3312
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsHam, Saleena
Journal TitleThe Rangeland Journal
Journal Citation44 (5-6), p. 299–307
Number of Pages9
Year2022
PublisherCSIRO Publishing
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN1036-9872
1834-7541
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ22023
Web Address (URL)https://www.publish.csiro.au/RJ/RJ22023
Abstract

This research found that rural social resistance to change and newcomers can be explained in part by the influence of social-set membership. Eighty-nine interviews were conducted in two Australian inland rural communities with population <2000 and analysed with a recognised cultural dynamics framework. This found attachment to local social identity, social hierarchy and cultural norms that represented social power. Established residents defended the status quo when valued facets of social identity were perceived to be threatened, resisting efforts to introduce change. Persons representing a challenge to established local identity norms could be socially undermined and censured to preserve the power of dominant social sets, defending their preferred narratives and norms. Understanding social identity influences can explain rural communities’ tendency to conservatism, why newcomers and new ideas are often derided, ignored or attacked. It can explain the motives for negative social capital and suggests social identity as a factor in small town newcomer business failure, and resistance to new knowledge transfer and practice adoption. Welcome and induction to local social codes is critical to newcomer integration. Outsiders and newcomers may meet discretely with like-minded or similar persons to safely fulfil social needs or influence as a social minority, providing support to their own unique group. Where residents cannot find inclusion, they may disengage. Understanding social identity can provide insights for community leaders, development practitioners, extension officers and newcomers struggling to serve and innovate in rural and rangelands communities.

Keywordssocial influences; change; community; exclusion; inclusion; knowledge transfer; social identity; rural; social power
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Byline AffiliationsRural Economies Centre of Excellence
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