Rural on the Move: Transitions, Transformations, Mobilities and Resistance



The Colloquium’s main theme, Rural on the Move, acknowledges some of the most important characteristics of contemporary rural change, primarily its dynamics, intensity, persistence, and interconnectedness (Woods, 2005). As a consequence, the processes that the countryside has experienced in the past few decades have cut across geographical scales, boundaries and various forms of transitions  and transformations, economic and social, technological and political, cultural and environmental. Mobilities (traditional and novel) and resistance to change (conservative and progressive) are some of the pathways shaping myriad new relations between global and local, and between urban and rural.


Session 1: Transitions

Transitions, in a geographical context, can have different meanings. Firstly, we use it to denote rural development processes in (post)-transition countries (PTCs) of Central, Eastern, and Southeast Europe. Secondly, we use it to signify the changes taking place in transitional, liminal, and contact spaces encompassing rural areas around the world. An urban-rural fringe, city region, cross-border rural region, or culturally/ethnically/religiously mixed rural area are some examples that would be suitable, but the list is open to other cases as well. This session welcomes papers that deal with either connotation of transitions from all parts of the world.  


Some of the questions we invite you to discuss in your papers are:   


  • What are the main present-day challenges in the countryside of (post)-transition countries? What are examples of good practices in answering them?   
  • How can the gap the gap in the developmental potentials between rural areas in PTCs and those in more economically-developed European states be reduced? How can agriculture and other economic sectors in PTCs become more competitive?
  • How can a balance between extra-local and local actors in rural development be reached? How can a balance between economic growth, social welfare, and environmental protection be achieved? 
  • How can the social capital of rural areas in PTCs be strengthened, in order to support integral development? 
  • In what way could bottom-up initiatives (e.g. LEADER, CLLD) bring more benefits to local rural communities?
  • How can rural areas in PTCs be made attractive to young people? What strategies and governance models might work and why?
  • What future is there for the countryside in PTCs?
  • What are the most pressing issues in city regions (including their rural areas) around the world? Which strategies have been used in order to avoid conflicts between different actors and stakeholders therein?
  • What are good examples of cross-border cooperation in rural regions? How can cross-border cooperation be made a reality in a time of polarised politics and anxiety regarding border security?
  • How can a balance between (over)tourism and natural heritage protection in buffer zones of nature protected areas be struck?
  • How should research transitional (rural) areas be approached? What are the most interesting questions in the research agenda of transitional spaces and places?

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Session 2: Transformations

There is, perhaps, a view of “the rural” as something that is not strongly affected by change. The different dimensions, however, that make up “the rural” are constantly transforming. This is especially visible in contemporary Europe, where rural areas are characterised by different processes of demographic and socio-economic restructuring, changes in environments and spatial identities, and technological change—bringing both opportunities and threats. The aforementioned changes relate to shifts in policies aimed at rural areas and, simply put, changes in ways we think about “the rural”.

Five specific dimensions of transformations can be regarded in this context: economic change; social and demographic change; environmental change; technological/digital change; and political change. This session welcomes papers dealing with any and all such aspects of change in rural areas, worldwide. We also welcome other topics related to rural transformations.  


Some of the questions we invite you to discuss in your papers are:   


  • What are important challenges of different forms of economic diversification of rural areas?
  • In light of differing demographic processes in rural areas, how can we achieve balance in terms of quality of life for the local population?
  • What are the main challenges related to environmental change around the globe? What are examples of good practices in answering them?   
  • Which development possibilities arise from technological change in rural areas?
  • How can we strengthen the interconnectedness of stakeholders and actors in rural areas so that theoretical concepts of endogenous, neo-endogenous, and bottom-up development are actually able to fulfil the theories’ promises?
  • How can we adjust policy measures to different typologies of rural areas?
  • What are key driving forces and uncertainties influencing future pathways for rural areas? 

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Session 3: Mobilities

The entire world seems to be on the move. Asylum seekers, international students, terrorists, members of diasporas, vacationers, business people, sports stars, refugees, backpackers, commuters, retired people, young mobile professionals, prostitutes, armies—these and many others fill the world's airports, buses, ships, and trains. The scale of it all is immense. (Sheller and Urry, 2006).

All these movements and migrations also have a spatial and temporal dimension. From North to South and South to North, from East to West and West to East, from rural to urban—and then back to (more-than-representational) rural (Halfacree, 2013)—sometimes temporary, sometimes seasonal or permanent…people have always been on the move, why should they stop now? It is not only people, however, that are moving in space. In the new mobility paradigm (Sheller and Urry, 2006) ‘places are like ships, moving around and not necessarily staying in one location’. Barcus (2018) explained that the term ‘mobilities turn’ in Geography involves ‘a shifting of conceptualizations of spatial mobilities and fosters questions about the linkages to social mobilities’.

This session is open to the exploration of both traditional and novel forms of migration and other mobilities, which involve “the rural”, regardless of whether rural is understood to be a material, representational, or imagined place. Voluntary or forced migrations, motivated by production or consumption patterns, physical or virtual mobilities are just some of the examples that might also fit this session.


This session welcomes contribution on various aspects of mobilities, migration, and movement involving local and global rural areas. We encourage you to think about:


  • What are the current trends in mobilities and migration involving rural areas in your region?
  • How can disciplinary boundaries in understanding motivations, paths, and consequences of traditional and novel forms of migrations and mobilities involving rural areas be crossed?
  • When does migration start and when does it finish?
  • How is mobility different from migration in the context of rural studies?
  • Are there any differences in challenges of reassembling social networks and opportunities between urban and rural and returning rural migrants? If so (or not), why?
  • Where are rural in-migrants running into tension and trouble regarding their expectations and everyday experiences? How does this contribute to forming new rural relations, images, etc.?
  • What are the drivers and implications for the local community and relations between locals and newcomers?
  • What is the role of consumption society, involving leisure activities, tourism and recreation, second-homes etc., in mobilities and migrations to/from rural areas?  
  • How do advancements in transport and communication technologies influence patterns and forms of mobilities and migration involving rural areas?
  • How do spatial representations combine with other factors to motivate and enable movement (Rivera, 2013:29)?
  • What are the opportunities and threats presented by the influx of refugees in rural areas? 

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Session 4: Geographies of Rural Resistance/s

The processes that rural communities have experienced over the past few decades cut across various forms of transition and transformation: global and local; technological and political; economic and social. This vast rural restructuring has been met with myriad rural responses—and the responses we especially wish to explore in this section can be summed up under the broad meaning of the term “resistance”. This section intends to politicise a broad scope of issues concerning contemporary rural existences and rural resistances. 

We open this section to papers that combine critical theoretical perspectives with sound empirical research and hope for a rich and fruitful exchange of ideas. We especially invite papers that cross boundaries, both in geographical and in disciplinary terms.


Some of the issues that we hope will be discussed in your papers are:


  • What kind of resistances to rural restructuring and other contemporary processes are there in rural social spaces? Where do these rural resistances stem from and what are their goals? Is the resistance rural-born or is it “imported” from or imposed by the “urban”?
  • How does rural resistance against modernisation processes affect rural communities and their processes of change?
  • Against whom are these resistances directed? Are these actors of grass-roots, civil background, or institutional (something else) and how do they relate to each other? Are their motives and objectives economic, political, social, environmental, or more than one at the same time? How do these different objectives interact and correspond, and how do their collisions or discrepancies impact rural people and communities?
  • What kinds of political strengths do rural resistances require and offer? Is this solely a potential or are rural communities and initiatives already an active force in local, national, and transnational contexts? What sorts of strategies do such rural interventions employ?
  • Are there some unexpected consequences of rural resistances and how they relate to differentiated, heterogeneous rural communities?
  • How do certain types of rural resistances impact and shape the symbolic construction of the community in question? What “types” of cultural resources are used in creating rural resistances? What “kinds” of local identities/identifications are created by these processes of resistance and how do they affect them?
  • How does research tackle these issues? What are examples of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches in investigating rural resistances? How do rural communities benefit from such research?

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