First Advisor

Carl Abbott

Date of Publication

Summer 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies




Swamp Gravy, Community, Revitalization, City planning -- Citizen participation -- Case studies, Community organization -- Citizen participation -- Case studies, Community theater -- Social aspects -- Georgia



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiii, 295 p.) : col. ill.


In 1990 many in Colquitt, Georgia considered themselves to be a dying town due to the loss of jobs and outmigration that occurred when labor intensive farming transitioned to the machine. In response citizens brought in a theater director from Chicago who helped them launch a performance series of inclusive stories that were acted by local volunteers. The resulting series called Swamp Gravy has run from 1992 to present (2012), and has led to purported claims of community revitalization. The purpose of this study was to discover what this ongoing narrative community engagement meant to the people of Colquitt in regards to: community experiences that produced new relationships (including those between Blacks and Whites); personal empowerment; the coproduction of an emerging and diverse community identity; and institutional and economic development. Methods for this case study included narrative interviews of participants, attendees and local citizens, as well as observation of the town and the performances, and document analysis. Many participant volunteers and attendees became Swamp Gravy enthusiasts, and describe their experiences as coming out into a meaningful experience of community, which included forming relationships with diverse others (including those of a different race). The enthusiasts speak of growing into larger community responsibilities with others for the common good, and feel that ongoing and inclusive storytelling is very important to coproducing a diverse heritage that informs the future of their city. Other attendees (predominantly the business community) describe the benefits of Swamp Gravy as instrumental to having given the town recognition (identity) as an entertaining tourist attraction that exposed individual talent, boosted individual confidence, and enhanced social connectivity. Others in Colquitt were indifferent or resistive to the coming out that the performances invite. Most everyone recognizes that Swamp Gravy has attracted outside tourists which has boosted economic development, occasioned the renovation of downtown Colquitt square and the formation of institutions to continue to attract and accommodate visitors from afar. This case is theorized in terms of the emerging communicative turn in planning that juxtaposes the planner as mediator or facilitator, and stakeholders as co-producers. The findings in this case study support that the Swamp Gravy form of narrative process has some potential for guiding stakeholders to a just diversity in cities, neighborhoods and towns, and as such should be studied further. Urban planning in situations of urban renewal may be one place where utilizing this form of meaningful engagement could lead to discovery of new identities, which may both inform and motivate a just plan to be coproduced.


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