Purdue University Graduate School
Sdunzik_Dissertation Mapping Whiteness.pdf (6.93 MB)

Mapping Whiteness: Uncovering the Legacy of All-White Towns in Indiana

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posted on 2019-08-15, 20:11 authored by Jennifer SdunzikJennifer Sdunzik
Why did black southern migrants during the Great Migration not get off the train along the migratory corridor that connected the points of departure and arrival, i.e. the Jim Crow South and the urban North? How did midwestern small-towns and black America come to be understood as polar opposites? Based on archival and ethnographic research, this project answers these questions by disrupting grand narratives about the Great Migration and the Midwest: 1) it disrupts the idea of predefined destinations of southern black migrants by illustrating that not all wanted to settle in big cities; 2) it disrupts the midwestern whiteness by displaying resilience and resistance of minorities in the same landscape; and 3) it disrupts stereotypes of midwestern friendliness by uncovering the self-perceived understanding of midwestern hospitality of Hoosier communities that stands in stark contrast with the unwelcoming environment as experienced by outsiders. Together, the chapters in this dissertation record the racialized geographies of Indiana and provide a nuanced understanding of identity and belonging in the Midwest. Analysis of the data identifies cultures of exclusion prevalent in midwestern small towns.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • American Studies

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Susan Curtis

Additional Committee Member 2

Cornelius Bynum

Additional Committee Member 3

Shannon McMullen

Additional Committee Member 4

Laura Zanotti

Additional Committee Member 5

Jerald Podair