Popular constructions of rural England have perpetuated images of idyllic, problem free environments which have tended to mask the exclusionary processes that marginalise particular groups of rural 'others'. This includes minority ethnic 'others' whose experiences of rural life have been largely overlooked by academic studies. Previous research into 'race'-related issues has focused almost exclusively on the more urbanised areas of the country which typically contain larger minority ethnic populations, but such a focus has to some extent overshadowed the difficulties facing minority ethnic households living in rural areas where communities are traditionally less transient and feelings of isolation and alienation may be at a premium. The research upon which the thesis is based is drawn from predominantly qualitative material elicited from studies of rural towns and villages based in three English counties, and has been used to examine a range of issues relating to rural racism. The perceptions of minority ethnic groups are examined to identify their feelings about rural life, fear of racist harassment and experiences of victimisation, while the attitudes of established white rural communities are also assessed in an analysis of notions of community, identity and 'otherness' in a rural context. In addition, the thesis considers the way in which statutory and voluntary agencies respond to the needs of minority ethnic rural households and to problems of racist victimisation. The research findings illustrate the disturbing nature, extent and impact of racist victimisation in rural environments, and it is suggested that the 'invisibility' of the problem is compounded by weaknesses in agency responses and by the enduring appeal of idyllicised constructions of rurality. Romanticised notions of rural homogeneity, and the corresponding demonisation of the 'other', will inevitably have implications for minority ethnic households whose visible or cultural differences immediately set them apart from the prevailing norm of rural 'sameness'. At the same time though, the status of the 'other' may not be a permanent affiliation for all rural minority ethnic households, but instead is likely to be a more transient condition contingent to some extent upon individual circumstances and particular environments. Consequently, the thesis contends that the significance of racialised 'othering' in the rural will only be fully appreciated through a more nuanced conceptual understanding of the rural 'othering' process, and through a more holistic research agenda that takes account of the increasing diversification of rural space
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