INseparable is a two-year Indiana Humanities initiative that invites Hoosiers to explore how we relate to each other across boundaries, real or imagined, and consider what it will take to indeed be inseparable, in all the ways that matter.


Whether due to real or perceived differences, Americans see each other differently depending on whether they live in rural, suburban or urban communities. The conclusion drawn from the near-constant polling, media commentary and academic analysis of the past two years is that America is culturally divided by its geography. In 2019 and 2020, Indiana Humanities has invited Hoosiers to dig into these divides, exploring how Hoosiers relate to each other across boundaries and considering what it will take to indeed be inseparable, in all the ways that matter.

During the past two years, INseparable has addressed the ways we’re the same and the ways we’re different; how we benefit from working together and when we’re fine on our own; the barriers we build and the ways we look beyond our differences; the progress we’ve made and our persistence to endure.

We have explored how Hoosiers and Americans have thought about urban, suburban and rural differences over time and what we think about them today. We have sparked conversations about the ways in which the futures of urban, rural and suburban Hoosiers are linked and what might be preventing us from working together.

As a proven convener and conversation starter, Indiana Humanities has pushed Hoosiers to look beyond the demographics of the urban-suburban-rural divides to consider the people behind the data. With programming that facilitates discussion, self-examination and fresh perspectives, Indiana Humanities has sought to help residents from all settings cross boundaries and gather to explore the opportunities and challenges we share. 

INconversation with Jean Thompson

This special INconversation with Jean Thompson caps off a year of One State / One Story programming around the state and the second year of Indiana Humanities’ INseparable initiative. Thompson, the New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist for The Year We Left Home, is a Midwesterner with Indiana roots. We’re pleased to have her join us for a virtual INconversation to talk about her book, her career as a writer, and the stories we tell about the Midwest. Barb Shoup, the founding director of the Indiana Writers Center, moderated the conversation.

Watch the INconversation
INseparable Film Tour

In 2019, five award-winning Indiana filmmakers were chosen by Indiana Humanities to create short documentaries examining the ways Hoosiers experience urban and rural identities today. The films—about a dance instructor in Gary dealing with the city’s disinvestment in arts education, about a rural community newspaper in Wayne County filling the gap caused by media consolidation, about a southern Indiana composting business that hires the formerly incarcerated to transform the land and their lives—complicate our ideas about who lives in Indiana and what they’re up to.

One State / One Story: The Year we Left Home

Indiana Humanities’ One State / One Story program invites Hoosiers to engage deeply with a book as part of a statewide conversation tied to our current programming theme. In 2020, during the second year of INseparable, we are reading and discussing Jean Thompson’s The Year We Left Home, which offers a sweeping, multigenerational look at life in the Midwest over the past several decades.

Crossroads: Change in Rural America

As part of INseparable, Indiana Humanities is sponsoring a tour of the Smithsonian’s Crossroads: Change in Rural America. The exhibit visited six Hoosier communities from September 2019 to June 2020.

INseparable Speakers Bureau

The Indiana Humanities INseparable Speakers Bureau is a curated list of fun and informative presentations, discussions and workshops from Indiana scholars on urban, rural and suburban dynamics in the Hoosier state.

INseparable Shelfie Challenge

The INseparable Shelfie Challenge is a program that encourages Hoosier students in grades K-8 to take the challenge to read five books related to life in rural, urban and suburban America. Those who complete the challenge are awarded with a $10 Amazon gift card to use to purchase their next read.

Novel Conversations

Indiana Humanities has added books related to the INseparable theme to Novel Conversations, our free lending library for book clubs. New titles include The Turner House, Hillbilly Elegy, Tyler Johnson Was Here and Little Fires Everywhere, among others. Read a blog post introducing 12 of the titles.


We believe the humanities can help individuals and communities make sense of the real and perceived differences between urban, suburban and rural Hoosiers. They can provide context and lenses for analysis, as well as create space for critical inquiry, open-ended consideration and reflection.

To that end, we have used these animating ideas to guide our work:

  • How can the humanities help Hoosiers frame and understand the real and perceived differences across urban, suburban and rural lines?
  • What’s the particular history of how Hoosiers have related to each other across lines of urban/suburban/rural difference? How have these tensions or differences played out politically, socially, culturally, economically or environmentally?
  • How has Indiana responded to larger national and transnational movements (civil rights, Great Migration, industrialization, urbanization, immigration, etc.) that have shaped urban, suburban and rural communities?
  • What are the factors that lead some communities to embrace change and others to resist it? What lessons can we draw from the past or from across Indiana and the U.S. today?
  • How can the humanities help Hoosiers frame and understand the complex challenges facing communities, such as outmigration, changing job markets, the opioid crisis, talent attraction and retention and quality of life?

We are not alone in asking these questions. For instance, a 2017 Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of rural Americans found that 7 out of 10 rural residents said their values differ from those of city dwellers. Conversely, 48 percent of urban Americans said their values differ from people in rural areas or small towns.

Several significant anniversaries and commemorations that tie to our theme, as well as the 2020 presidential election, have come during 2019-2020. These include:

  • the Indianapolis bicentennial
  • the 50th anniversary of Unigov
  • the 50th anniversary of the administration of one of the nation’s first black mayors, Gary’s Richard Hatcher
  • the 60th anniversary of legislation that led to the major wave of rural school consolidation in Indiana in the late 1960s
  • the centennial of the 1920 census, which was the first to show that a majority of Americans lived in cities and towns.

Other Resources:

Are you a librarian interested in taking part in INseparable? View an informational webinar on the resources available to libraries:

Interested in learning more about this theme and the resources available?

Contact Megan Telligman, Senior Program Manager, at