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26.2 'Left-Behind'-ness of Rural-peripheral Regions in Europe – New Wine in old Bottles?

5419.119 (Kapteynborg)
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
13:45 - 15:15


Prof. Dr. Teresa Graziano
Associate Professor
University of Catania

Inner, peripheral, marginal, fragile: the varied taxonomy of left-behindeness in Italy


Over the last years, a heated debate about socio-economic marginality has monopolized mainstream narratives, academic debate and policy strategies in Italy, where a long-entrenched territorial divide split the country into the more advanced northern regions and the lagging southern ones. Apart from this historically-rooted spatial unevenness, a new emphasis has been more recently put on the need to face depopulation trends in the most “fragile” peripheral areas of the country, identified according to a complex set of indicators. In 2014 a national policy framework, the National Strategy for Inner Areas, was launched to improve essential services, promote local development and ultimately invert marginality trends in these areas trough a place-based approach.
This work aims at scrutinizing the controversial relationship between mainstream narratives, transdisciplinary scientific (re)conceptualizations and policy frameworks facing territorial marginality in Italy. In particular, the research aims at providing a critical review of the different notions through which marginality has been theoretically (in the literature) and practically (in policies) operationalized in Italy; detecting what are the indicators that have been used to identify marginal areas in policy frameworks; and investigating whether the dimensions deployed by national policies overlap and/or conflict with those identified at the European scale. This will shed light on the varied geographies outlined by the different spatial expressions which are selected and used over others, revised according to the paradigm of “left-behindeness”, against a backdrop in which national policies often interpret – implicitly or explicitly – this marginality in terms of lack of “citizenship’s rights”.
Dr. Evert Meijers
Utrecht University

The spatial orientation of Dutch political parties: How ‘left-behind’ are Dutch rural and peripheral regions really?


Whereas in the 1970s it was often deemed to be in the national interest to redistribute economic activity across countries, more recent decades saw heavy public investment in what Crouch and LeGalès (2012) call ‘national champion cities’ (almost always also capital cities). Parkinson et al. (2015) and Dijkstra (2013) argue that continuing over-investment in capital cities and under-investment in second-tier cities in the long run will be unsustainable and lead to economic under-performance. Perhaps even more far-reaching are the political consequences of shifting away attention from places in need of support to more prosperous and dynamic ones, as it causes distress and resentment in the ‘places that don’t matter’, who take revenge through the ballot box (Rodriguez-Pose, 2018). Also in a small country such as the Netherlands, much attention is being paid to a perceived gap between dynamic city regions and supposedly left behind regions.

While voting patterns have been used to proxy ‘left-behindness’, this paper measures the attention given to all Dutch places and regions in the Dutch parliament, hence providing an objective and direct measure of left-behindness on the basis of questions posed by members of parliament. The spatial orientation of Dutch political parties will be explored and explained. Are rural and peripheral places overlooked indeed, or is this merely perception? Do populist parties fill the ‘rural gap’ in attention? Links will also be established with voting patterns and 'constituency' orientation of members of parliament in an electoral system that hardly safeguards balanced regional representation.
Patrick Kahle
Bielefeld Graduate School In History And Sociology

Typologies of 'Left-Behind'-ness to understand abandoned sites


'Left-Behind'-ness appears at first glance as a reframing of urban and regional 'development' for 'left behind' places or as a reproduction of urban-rural-differences. At second glance the discussion of applicability may help for internal differentiation. Perhaps the term and established related approaches open up the measurement of attention, of former irrelevant places becoming relevant at a certain time. This development may help cultural scientist and sociological researchers (like me) to reflect the differences within abandoned sites.
Abandoned sites or modern ruins (the German phrase ‘lost places’ is catchier; Bauer & Dolgan 2020) pose a challenge to ethnographic research if they stand apart from the built heritage preservation, presentation or commercialization and any subsequent use is disorderly. This applies to many ruins in the former GDR, in which peripheralization, polarization, and marginalization brought about uneven development(s) (in sensu Harvey 1982 & MacKinnon et al. 2022, concrete Lang 2012 & 2013). From the perspective of social practice, why is one ruin suitable for urban exploration, the next only for secret consumption of drugs and the last one only for vandalism – after all, as a result of serial building in the GDR, they are initially equipped with the similar built conditions. And depending on the social practice, modern ruins require an adjustment of ethnographic methods, because sometimes visitors to the ruins are not easy to find.
Against this background, a typology of locations of modern ruins is developed, which also makes the inner differentiation of peripheries, 'left-behind'-ness and related approaches mutually understandable.

Session host

Nadir Kinossian
Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

Tim Leibert
Senior Researcher
Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

Susann Schaefer
Research Associate
University of Jena



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

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