The new relationship between rural territories and rural dwellers: experiences of success and failure between utopia and dystopia

Convenors: María Jesús Rivera, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Spain



Changes faced by Europe in the last years have led to the reconfiguration of rural territories and rural lives. They have also facilitated the appearance of new rural experiences and power relationships. One of these changes has, undoubtedly, been the outcome of the different impact of the crisis on uneven processes of rural development: differing levels of rural welfare, different political responses, different rural livelihoods, etc. Therefore, rural territories nowadays constitute a space where many dimensions of unevenness intertwine and give rise to a new relation of winners and losers. 

Our WG will look at this new relation of winners and losers by focusing in three dimensions of rural life:

1.- Livelihoods:

  • Which kind of economic activities/livelihoods is more successful nowadays and which one struggle to survive?   
  • Does the rural territory still represent a space for new economic activities or has it an increasingly residual role in the economy?
  • Who has found in the rural territory the social and economic milieu for a better life?

2.- Life conditions:

  • Who are those experiencing a worsening of their life conditions due to impoverishment, lack of services, and so forth? How can they face the deterioration of their life conditions?
  • Who are those finding in the new rural territory still a place for a higher quality of life? How do they overcome the apparent worsening of life conditions in rural areas?

3.- Environment:

  • At what extent, rural environment has been eroded due to new policies implemented in the context of the current crisis? On the contrary, has environment been strengthened as a medium to overcome the effects of the crisis?

The analysis of these three dimensions and the different experiences of success and failure within them will allow us also to discuss the kind of utopia and dystopia that may emerge from current rural territories and rural communities:

  • Are rural communities still an appealing environment for ex-urban population?
  • Do rural communities still represent the image of a cosy shelter or have images of rural backwardness and hardship been reinforced?
  • Will the small community survive or is it damned to die?

FormatThe WG will be organized through different sessions for oral presentations. Participants may use of power point, prezi, and so on.