Who Gets to Go Back-to-the-Land?


Who Gets to Go Back-to-the-Land?

Gender and Race in U.S. Self-Sufficiency Popular Culture

Valerie Padilla Carroll

254 pages
7 photographs, 4 illustrations, index


December 2022


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2022


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2022


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In Who Gets to Go Back-to-the-Land?​, Valerie Padilla Carroll examines a variety of media from the last century that proselytized self-sufficiency as a solution to the economic instability, environmental destruction, and perceived disintegration of modern America. In the early twentieth century, books already advocated an escape for the urban, white-collar male. The suggestion became more practical during the Great Depression, and magazines pushed self-sufficiency lifestyles. By the 1970s, the idea was reborn in newsletters and other media as a radical response to a damaged world, allowing activists to promote the simple life as environmental, gender, and queer justice. At the century’s end, a great variety of media promoted self-sufficiency as the solution to a different set of problems, from survival at the millennium to wanderlust of millennials.

Nevertheless, these utopian narratives are written overwhelmingly for a particular audience—one that is white, male, and white-collar. Padilla Carroll’s archival research of the books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, websites, blogs, and videos promoting the life of the agrarian smallholder illuminates how embedded race, class, gender, and heteronormative dogmas in these texts reinforce dominant power ideologies and ignore the experiences of marginalized people. Still, Padilla Carroll also highlights how those left out have continued to demand inclusion by telling their own stories of self-sufficiency, rewriting and reimagining the movement to be collaborative, inclusive, and rooted in both human and ecological justice.

Author Bio

Valerie Padilla Carroll is an associate professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies at Kansas State University.


"In her careful and rigorous study, which spans nearly a century, Padilla Carroll balances the central location of whiteness and patriarchy in representations of back-to-the-land communities as they travel through print culture with the stories of women, people of color, and Indigenous peoples who, despite their omission, nonetheless formed critical relationships with land within and outside of self-sufficiency literature."—Katelyn Campbell, H-Environment

"Padilla Carroll reveals a multiplicity of back-to-the-land narratives that illuminate how diverse Americans have imagined their place in response to urbanization, environmental degradation, and social exclusion."—Andrew J. Milson, Journal of Popular Culture

“Padilla Carroll makes the past directly relevant to today’s context and global issues. Unlike previous scholars she includes people who have been excluded from the narratives, especially Americans of color but also queer Americans, who have created resistant narratives. Padilla Carroll presents a seamless exposition with well-chosen sources for analysis.”—Clark A. Pomerleau, author of Califia Women: Feminist Education against Sexism, Classism, and Racism

“Padilla Carroll recovers key historical texts and authors from the back-to-the-land movement and shapes the current, contemporary canon by looking at the established print and new publication outlets. Rather than emphasize the emergence of a critical mass within popular culture, the author turns to the margins to recover the nondominant voices of the movement. Padilla Carroll offers sharp, compelling close reading analysis, deftly unpacking the quotations used as examples.”—Kristin J. Jacobson, author of The American Adrenaline Narrative

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Beginnings
2. Masculinities
3. Femininities
4. Heteronorms
5. Femininities, Again
6. BIPOC and Back-to-the-Land

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