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16.3 Uneven rural development in times of the polycrisis

Thursday, June 29, 2023
15:45 - 17:15


Prof. Dr. Samuel Depraz
Head Of Research

Both “Boomburbs” and “shrinking cities”, the schizophrenic situation of peri-metropolitan small rural towns facing polycrisis times – French Examples


Since the seventies, France has undergone a continuous process of urban spread. However, this has not led to the creation of a tight fabric of interlinked rural/urban areas following the counter-urbanization model: many small rural cities have gained inhabitants but are losing correct supply with public and commercial facilities (Barczak et Hilal, 2017).
This paradoxical situation is not only the result of the rise of the motorization rate or the consequence of the relocation of retailing with time, while public utilities have undergone a selective concentration towards bigger cities. There is also an excessive focus in planning on socio-economic growth rather than on “residential economy” (Davezies, 2008): rural areas seem to follow an unsuitable metropolitan development model, trying to attract productive activities, but with few results (Fol, 2020).
In contrary, socio-cultural dynamics have not been the priority, strengthening an outward orientation of population’s habits towards metropoles, significant vacancy rates, a fragmented socio-spatial structure and a correlative growth of social resentment, the COVID-crisis having not reversed this trend. Besides, local representatives have few effective means of action over private ownership, which controls most of the town centers. Finally, the rise of commuter spending have not been anticipated in public policies, leading to the yellow jackets social upsurge in 2018.
In-depth analysis of two examples of small cities (Coutras, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Villars-les-Dombes, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) will show the fragile situation of town centers and the weaknesses of the level of small cities in France, proving the pertinence of dedicated public action programs for them.
Julia Spanier
PhD Researcher
Utrecht University

Radical rural place-making? Agricultural grassroots initiatives in the negotiation of the European countryside


This paper speaks to the potential for alternative economic structures in ‘the rural’. In conversation with Halfacree’s work on ‘radical rurality’ (2007), the edited volume on uneven rural development in Germany (Belina, Kallert, Miessner and Naumann 2022), and therein Belina’s contribution (2022) on the potential for a progressive rural politics, this paper investigates the making of radical rural places through agricultural grassroots initiatives (AGIs) in Germany. The concept of place-making, as applied here, offers a perspective that cuts through the layers of rural spatial representation and puts the material-discursive negotiations, constructions and disruptions of rural spaces as lived reality at the forefront.

Through this conceptual lens, I explore two AGIs in different German ruralities: a rural collective vegetable garden CSA (community-supported agriculture initiative) located in a wealthy region in South-West Germany, and an East German peri-urban leftist CSA cooperative located at the interface between a “dynamic city” and a “rural region in permanent structural crisis” (Fink, Hennicke and Tiemann 2019). By asking how these initiatives inherit and construct their specific rural place, and how they negotiate it with other place-making agents, I trace how they (fail to) make radical ruralities in their everyday encounter with the uneven geographies in which they are embedded.

This article contributes to the debates on AGIs and radical ruralities both by investigating AGIs as tentative agents in the construction of alternative ruralities; and by further developing critical geographical work on “place-making” for the theorisation of rural change in Europe at the level of lived realities.
Dr Keith Halfacree
Reader In Human Geography
Swansea University

Where are we at with the rural in post-Covid times: renaissance or recuperation?


The paper looks at some of the consequences for the European rural of the still ongoing but now much less all-encompassing Covid19 experience. On the one hand, rural areas came across strongly in Covid19 times as a restorative space and this may seem to be set for further post-Covid renaissance. For example, urban people seemed desperate to get to rural places, the rural was explicitly set up (once again) and reiterated as the positive opposite of the urban, and rural people seemed to come across as much freer and independent than those trapped in the city. On the other hand, however, the ‘openness’ of the rural to a diversity of people was questioned in a number of ways. For example, a renewed defensiveness of / for the rural emerged and there was a fear of difference and of ‘contamination’ from the outside. The latter perspective is developed in the paper via rural adaption of Neil Smith’s concept of urban recuperation. This was a response whose significance had already arisen in the UK via the representational, practical and experienced rural expression of Brexit and is now being reinforced more widely across the Global North rural via concerns about the place of the rural in these times of Ukraine war, food supply and urgent climate crisis. In short, it would seem ‘rural‘ is a lively political focus in 2023 and the paper ends with emphasising some of the more radical expressions of this attention.
Çare Çalişkan
Senior Researcher
Technical University of Berlin

Rethinking the agrifood systems and rurality in overcoming today's polycrisis through two different cases: Turkey and Germany


The economic model dominated by the Anthropocene era based on continuous growth and development through urban areas sees nature and rural areas as unlimited resources. The effects of this course have paved the way for the polycrisis we are facing today, including climate, economy, food, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. It necessitates a deep rethinking of the pro-growth economic system and the relationships between humans and the environment in many ways. In a world where starvation and malnutrition are not being tackled properly although we produce more food than we need, we are also far from the ecological sustainability of the agro-economic system that develops based on the food-rural-urban-nature interaction. Drawing on a broad conceptual background inspired by debates on agroecology and degrowth, what role the transformation of today's resource-intensive global agrifood systems and foregrounding rurality can play in tackling crises in the future is the chief question of this research. In seeking answers to this crucial question, the research will address the relationship between agri-food systems and rurality concerning the polycrisis and their role in building a more habitable/sustainable future through theoretical discussions and a literature review. In this respect, it will focus on what the transformation of agri-food systems and strengthened rurality can promise us through field research in Turkey and Germany which will be based on actor analysis/mapping and interview findings. The two cases are quite different in scale, level of development, and socio-economic structure, providing us with valuable policy guidance for the future.

Session host

Simon Dudek
KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt

Andreas Kallert
KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt

Michael Mießner
Associate Professor
Trier University



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl