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03.2 At the crossroads of rural development and migration: translocal corridors as a lever for local revitalization and resilience

Tuesday, June 27, 2023
11:00 - 12:30


Mateo Núñez-Martínez
Predoctoral Researcher
University Of A Coruña

Migrations in ‘Empty Spain’: impacts of immigration and emigration on the local development of El Bierzo and Laciana


On this scientific presentation, we aim to expose the analytical conclusions of the relation between migration flows and local development strategies planned and/or implemented within the geographical area of El Bierzo and Laciana. To achieve that purpose, three key issues will be considered when specifying the features of the aforementioned linkage.

• Past migrations: through this research dimension we expect to optimally know about the creation and consolidation of transnational mobility networks that nowadays are still functioning. On this sense, it happens to be especially interesting their reactivation after the financial and economic global crisis of 2008.
• Differences and similarities on migratory projects: the main goal of this task is founded on the direct contact with local population, which will be asked about topics such as their future expectations or their possibilities of return under an intergenerational perspective. Therefore, it will be ultimately feasible to determine disparities and resemblances between those who left the region during the latest phases of Franco’s regime and those who have done it over the last fifteen years.
• Identification of socio-economic revitalization strategies: we will emphasize on those which rely on attracting and emplacing non-EU migrants as a priority idea on their starting and deploying stages.

The final inferences of the present research -substantiated using ethnographic methodologies such as interviews and family life stories- will be complemented with a quick review of the socio-economic and demographic history of the region since the second half of the past century.
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Dr. Marlies Meijer
Assistant Professor
Wageningen University & Research

Spaces of Decoupling in the Netherlands and Poland. Emerging local governance networks for hosting non-EU migrants in shrinking areas?


A significant share of migration studies is dedicated to understanding how large cities in Europe deal with the influx of international migrants, forced and by choice. Rural and peripheral regions however, are hardly identified as receiving areas for migrant newcomers. Here, economic degradation, population decline, and liveability are at the centre of academic debate. Nevertheless, peripheral - and shrinking - areas are increasingly regarded as favourable locations for hosting non-EU migrants, in particular asylum-seekers, refugees, and recognised refugees. In our study, we combine the two debates, by examining how peripheral declining small cities and rural communities in the Netherlands and Poland deal with the arrival and settlement of non-EU migrants. We identify different spaces of decoupling to better understand how local policy discourses on migration governance relate to national ones. From our study, it appeared that in these spaces of decoupling alternative (cross-regional) governance networks are formed to host migrant newcomers in both countries, and in some cases, migration is framed as a panacea for decline. Within these networks, the leading efforts of non-governmental organisations and volunteers stand out and were more prominent than was found in urban contexts.
Dr. Elena Giacomelli
Postdoc Fellow
University Of Bologna

Leaving, staying, returning? The role of media narratives and discourses in the relationship between migrations and shrinking areas in Italy


This paper aims to explore how migration, ‘shrinking regions’ - regions undergoing a demographic and economic decline in Europe - and their interaction are framed in Italian media debates, to reflect on the diverse impacts of such narratives and on the perception of such localities as hospitable or hostile environments.
A crucial factor in the perception of migrants as a marginalized community and ‘shrinking areas’ as marginalized areas is how these topics, and their encounters, are framed in media narratives and discourses. On the one side, if the media distortions represent migration as a crisis to be solved and migrants as “invaders", they influence openness or closure towards newcomers, orienting collective perceptions of migratory phenomena and consolidating them as security and emergency issues, instead of different studies have shown how migration can sustain economic, social and cultural development for hosting territories. On the other side, although shrinking areas feature a set of critical issues (e.g., depopulation, lack of services and infrastructures), they can transform into privileged spaces for more equitable modes of territorial regeneration.
The paper’s ultimate goal is to analyse ways by which Italian media framing may have led to stereotyping in the context of migration and shrinking regions, thus influencing perceptions of readerships, general audiences and policy-making and, finally, to explore the processes of deconstruction, re-construction and enactment of alternative and counternarratives concerning such interaction.
Dr. Raili Nugin
Senior Researcher
Tallinn University

Crisis or opportunity? Ukrainian refugees on the crossroads of rurban mobilities


Estonian society has recently been facing several crises that have highlighted rural-urban relationships and the role of spatial mobilities in these. One of such crises emerged after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, bringing along migration wave of Ukrainian war refugees. Estonia (with a total population of 1.3 million) has received the highest number of war refugees from Ukraina per capita in Europe. Besides the cities, refugees were scattered around different rural centres. Refugees settling in rural areas could potentially solve several demographic and labour market problems in rural areas (depopulation, lack of children in schools, shortage of labour force in farms etc). However, several critical problems emerged in solving these issues particularly in rural areas, tied to spatial mobility options in Estonia. This paper aims to scrutinize these, with a particular focus on rural-urban relations and mobilities within these relations. The presentation is based on fieldwork done in different rural areas of Estonia during June-September 2022, involving in-depth interviews with Ukrainian refugees (N=13) and Estonian municipal officials, volunteers and business owners (N=6) who dealt with Ukrainians in rural areas. In addition, ethnographic observations were conducted in refugee centre and Red Cross volunteer centre. It will be argued that spatial mobilities are one of the most crucial pillars in integration of Ukrainian refugees into Estonian society and these are tied to hybrid structural phenomena in regional development. The options to move (motilities, cf Kaufmann et al 2004) create possibilities, but are also a form of deepening inequalities.
Neal Halforty
Phd Researcher
Queen's University Belfast

A Study of Neighbourhood Attachment and Place Identity in a Post Conflict Society: Portuguese Communities in Rural Northern Ireland


Through global processes of rural diversification, migrants are now settling in a greater variety of places than ever before, outside of urban areas. More often this is occurring in places where inward migration is a relatively new phenomenon, including rural areas in the US and across Western Europe. Many of these regions are considered new immigration destinations, or ‘non-traditional’ locations. Within these spaces, migrants are active in creating new meanings, practices and identities, formed by their interaction with longer-established local communities. This paper will present key findings from on-going fieldwork on migrant neighbourhood attachment and place identity within new rural locales, contributing to the central focus of this project - Portuguese communities residing in rural Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland, a society traditionally segregated by religion/community background (Catholic, Protestant) has been undergoing a post-conflict transition over the past 25 years, whilst also becoming a new immigration destination. Portuguese nationals are an under-researched minority group, despite being one of the largest minoritised groups in Northern Ireland over two decades. Qualitative research is underway in the form of semi-structured interviews and focus groups with Portuguese residents, community organisations and representatives in the Mid-Ulster region, to better understand the lived experiences of Portuguese migrants living in rural areas. Initial findings of the fieldwork will be presented at this conference. Whilst Northern Ireland is a unique case because of its significant historical legacy, the findings will contribute to broader debates around rural diversification, place identity and neighbourhood attachment, particularly, but not limited to, post-conflict societies.

Session host

Bettina Bock
University of Groningen

Annelies Zoomers
Utrecht University



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

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