Date of Award

Spring 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cynthia M Duncan


In 2006, the pulp mill in Berlin, NH was closed and dismantled, marking an end to more than a century of dependence on the pulp and paper industry. The city's location in a high-amenity and recreation-dependent region suggests that the rebirth of the local economy would follow a general transition from a production orientation to consumption. Using in-depth interviews and other qualitative methods, survey work, and secondary quantitative data I chronicle a century change, focusing on how the industry has shaped the community and its present ability to reinvent itself. I analyze the ways in which patterns of change and redevelopment are structured by the local social, economic, and environmental contexts, emphasizing society-environment interactions.

The community became stigmatized on the basis of industrially-produced environmental harm, and this negative image has proven a subtle, though real obstacle to redevelopment. The physical decline of the city's built environment, the mill site's central location, and a heavily industrialized river corridor have also constrained development opportunities. More than a century of forest management for pulpwood production has left the surrounding region with a relatively young forest comprised of smaller-diameter and lower-value timber stands, and large-scale biomass energy production has emerged as the primary new wood-based industry. Discourse about the community's economic future has largely centered on potential uses of the former mill site. The local small business community has been instrumental in shaping these discussions, though in ways consistent with divergent consumption- or production-oriented economic interests.

I call into question the ubiquity of the post-productivist transition in high-amenity rural communities. Despite Berlin's location, the community has not turned squarely toward tourism and consumption as its new economic base. Instead, elements of place---particularly its embodied industrial history---have led the community into a mixed turn in which both production- and consumption-oriented activity are emerging alongside a broadly public sector-dependent local economy. In employing a case study approach to rural redevelopment I have shown how the specificity and distinctiveness of particular arrangements of geographical location, material form, and meaning--- place---matter in great ways for how patterns of social and economic transformation play out across space.