Graduate Fellow – Barry White

Barry White is a candidate for a master’s degree in applied cultural anthropology at Mississippi State University. He is currently working on a thesis research project that explores the inclusion of sustainability in mid-sized cities’ revitalization movements.

Barry will be spending the semester conducting his thesis research as a Graduate Fellow with the Jackson Community Design Center.  This partnership was initiated due to the similar goals each party shares – the movement towards  more sustainable and balanced cities as we progress.  Barry will be approaching the idea of progress in cities through the cultural evolution of our communities.  It’s undeniable that we grow and evolve as a race through our social structures and perceptive norms, and Barry will help us understand some of the social structures that exist in Jackson and to what degree social, environmental, and economic sustainability is considered or sought. If Barry requests an interview, please oblige his request and speak freely.  The information will help us all development a better understanding of the urban systems that exists or could exist.  Below is Barry’s research abstract.

Research Abstract by Barry White:
Jackson, Mississippi is currently undergoing its own revitalization movement in an attempt to revive its blighted downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods that have fallen victim to urban sprawl. These efforts involve real-estate development ventures, historic preservation initiatives, and “green” projects that include greenway and bicycle corridors, which add connectivity to the downtown setting. While physical development is crucial to revival of the downtown landscape, the cultural landscape, which consists of the collective ideas, beliefs, and attitudes of Jacksonians, must also be considered as a driving factor in revitalization (Blewitt 2008). Using criteria of sustainable development will allow the exploration of the “dialogue of values” within Jackson’s population and will serve to identify unique concerns and apply these concerns to the development process (Blewitt 2008).

Using ethnographic research methods, I am meeting with developers, business owners, and residents working or living in and around downtown Jackson to gather differing desires, positions, and values concerning the four elements of sustainable development: cultural, economic, political, and environmental criteria. Through the identification of these varying attitudes, behaviors, and awareness levels among Jacksonians, the research is intended to measure how well elements of sustainable development are being supported and implemented into the revitalization strategy.

Working with key informants in the downtown and surrounding communities will allow me to capture participants’ personal experiences in Jackson and their unique concerns (if any) about the revitalization movement. The completion of this research project will provide a mapping of Jacksonians’ connections with elements of sustainable development that can serve as a foundation to support participants’ needs in future city development initiatives.

Barry will also be working with the Theory of Urban Design class taught to the 5th year architecture students this fall.  Recently he gave a lecture to the students regarding the basics of cultural anthropology and developing research methods (pictured above). The JCDC will publish some of Barry’s findings following the completion of his fellowship.

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