Youth Identity and Media Use in Rural Pennsylvania

Briana Leigh Pocratsky

Advisor: Amy L Best, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Nancy Hanrahan, Rashmi Sadana

Online Location, Zoom
April 18, 2023, 11:30 AM to 01:30 PM


The United States has grown more racially and ethnically diverse, yet large pockets of the rural Rust Belt and Northern Appalachia remain relatively homogenous. No longer sites of middle-class prosperity, these enclaves are becoming increasingly isolated and residents feel as if they are forgotten and ignored. At the same time, we are living in a unique political moment when white working-class individuals living in rural areas have become an urgent focus in the social sciences. This evolving milieu offers limited opportunities for social mobility and few avenues to articulate an identity tied to class status and/or place. The study uses ethnographic methods to better understand how young people in a rural place use media in making sense of identity, moral boundaries, and politics within the context of a changing yet enduring community. This work contributes to the need for more research beyond “the Rust Belt Diner” genre of journalism that often focuses on conservative white working-class adults and broadens the scope to focus on youth transitioning to adulthood with an emphasis on media as an institution. Ultimately, this dissertation considers how white working-class youth use media to make sense of, engage in, and/or challenge our social world in everyday life.