Saturday, November 13, 2004

City/Country - What is an Exurb?


Much of election analysis converges on the differences between big cities, small cities, big towns, smalls towns, suburbs, exurbs, and "rural areas". What happened to the Village? Everyone uses the word as a metaphor (myself included, in a number of posts), but are there real villages in the USA? Amish villages? Anatevka? Hollers in the Appalachia?

I am attracted to the whole urban/rural thesis for the polarization of US population. I have seen it before, elsewhere. The wars in the Balkans in the 1990s were wars between the city and the country. Bearded, greasy, drunk, illiterate, religious, patriarchal mountainfolks really enjoyed destroying cultural monuments of Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Mostar and Sarajevo. They got their revenge against the cultural and intellectual elites living in those big cities and towns, all those atheists living in multi-cultural vibrant communities, all those frighteningly independent women, all those decadent metrosexuals,...femiphobia again, I guess.

About 12 or 13 years ago, when I was a fresh immigrant to the USA, I mentioned villages to my wife (actually, I don't think we were yet married at the time) and she started laughing. I asked why, is she trying to say there are no villages in the USA? Her response: there are no villages in the USA today, there are only big and small cities and big and small towns.

So, where do the folks live who earn their living from agriculture? Where are the farmers? On isolated farms? Where do they go shopping, to church, to school? Isn't that village?

In 1995, we went to visit my folks in Yugoslavia, and I took my wife outside of Belgrade, to see a real muddy village. She suffered a cultural shock!

We currently live in a new "urban village" in a very liberal university town. There is a Main Street and a Market Street, a small family movie theater, a Weaver Street Market (healthy food store), a nice bookstore, a pre-school, an elementary school and a middle school. There is a dentist, a lawyer, and several small offices and shops. There is an Italian restaurant, an ice-cream/coffee shop. Everyone says "Hello". Kids play together. People who want to go to church mostly go to the same one. There are many foreigners (mostly post-docs and visiting scholars) - completely a part of the community. A number of gay couples live here, too. There are students, grad students, post-docs, professors, school teachers, physicians, nurses, professionals, retirees, young people, married couples with kids, teenagers, elderly, even professional bloggers! There are a few W stickers parked along the streets, but mostly Kerry/Edwards and anti-Bush stickers.

So, please someone enlighten me - what is an exurb?

There is a good discussion over on Legal Fiction about this, but even Americans seem not to be exactly clear what an exurb is:
http://lawandpolitics.blogspot.com/2004_11_01_lawandpolitics_archive.html#110032802856380416

Can someone please define for me: big city, small city, big town, small town, suburb, exurb, holler, village, rural area...

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