Political Ecology of Culture Clash: Amenity-Led Development, Vulnerability, and Risk in Coastal North Carolina

Candace K. May


The current study contributes a political ecology of culture clash approach to the research on amenity-led development (ALD) in coastal areas. Coastal areas are characterized by high population growth, yet are prone to natural disasters, which are projected to increase as coasts erode, and seas rise and warm. Collaboration between newer and longer-term residents on hazard mitigation measures is increasingly important, but the ALD literature is replete with conflict, divisions, and increased vulnerability. The current study applies concepts from two lines of ALD scholarship, the culture clash literature and political economy approaches, to a case study of a traditional commercial fishing community undergoing ALD in North Carolina. Findings demonstrate that newer and longer-term residents share a concern for environmental harm, but misunderstandings and sense of place differences fuel conflict, while broader drivers of coastal development shape the landscape of vulnerability and risk. A significant contribution of this study is the exposition that ALD is not environmentally or politically neutral. There are significant consequences for environmental integrity, social vulnerability, and risk and hazard mitigation measures in who wins and who loses from culture clash politics, which belie the viability of cooperation based on common ground. However, making the terrain of politics visible reveals allies and resources for improving resilience and sustainability.

Keywords: Culture clash; sense of place; politics of place; amenity-led development; enclosure; rural gentrification; rural restructuring; political ecology

Full Text:


The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.