For my entire professorial career (just over 30 years), I have been interested in various aspects of life in the American South, especially the rural South. Virtually all of my scholarship has focused on forms of structural inequality, whether analyzing school desegregation or regional economic development. This has resulted in journal articles, book chapters, and books.
Most recently, I have extended my heavily quantitative work with a more qualitative case study approach. This work is reported in two places: an edited volume (William W. Falk, Michael D. Schulman and Ann R. Tickamyer, eds., 2003. Communities of Work: Rural Restructuring in Local and Global Contexts. Ohio University Press) and a monograph (William W. Falk, 2004. Rooted in Place: Family and Belonging in a Southern Black Community. Rutgers University Press). My case study was done in an historically black southern county.
Questions raised there are now being explored in two other projects. First, with Larry Hunt and Matthew O. Hunt, we are analyzing return migration to the South, emphasizing the size, content and meaning of this migration especially for African Americans (Falk, Hunt and Hunt, 2004. “Return Migration of African Americans to the South: Reclaiming a Land of Promise, Going Home or Both?” Rural Sociology 69: 490-509; Hunt, Hunt and Falk. Forthcoming 2008. “Who is Headed South? U.S. Migration Trends in Black and White, 1970 – 2000.” Social Forces). As a by-product of this project, we also turned our attention to Hurricane Katrina’s effects on New Orleans (Falk, Hunt and Hunt, 2006. “Hurricane Katrina and New Orleanians’ Sense of Place: Return and Reconstitution or ‘Gone with the Wind’?” Du Bois Review 3: 115-128). This stream of migration-related work continues with grant proposals and journal manuscripts currently under review.
My second project, extending issues raised in the qualitative work, focuses on the rise of gated communities in the Lowcountry (primarily the South Carolina and Georgia coastline). These places have been built mostly in counties that were, not long ago, majority or heavily black, and in all cases, economically poor. I have wondered what the presence of elite, expensive, wealthy, all-white communities means for both those living on them and those (the indigenous residents) living around them? In 2006 – 2007 I lived in the coastal low country visiting such places and interviewing people about them. I am now writing toward what I hope will be a new book about this.
For the foreseeable future, I will be teaching courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. For graduate students, it is likely to be new course on “Sociological Methodologies.” This is aimed primarily at first-year students. It covers some basics on the theory-research relationship but also offers weekly foci – with participating faculty – on topics ranging from survey research to content analysis, experiments, network analysis, feminist methodology, qualitative methods, historical and comparative methods, and related methodological approaches. For undergraduate students, I will be teaching 3 courses: two on the American South (one in the department; one for the university honors program); my other course will be the departmental honors research course, taken by the students in the department’s honors program which I direct.