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About the Conference

As particular areas of interest, we welcome proposals that explore the following issues:

Changing roles of rural and small-town cultural heritages

How are different forms of heritage being developed, conserved, or contested in rural and small-town communities?

How do contemporary representations of rural and small-town communities manifest in public discourses?

Experiences and interpretations of contemporary social change

How do rural and small-town residents experience and interpret recent and ongoing trends in their communities?

How do people invent roles for, and place themselves within, these processes and events?

Community and institutional engagements in sustainability discourses and practices

What visions or solutions for sustainability – whether environmental, social, or economic – are promoted by residents, civil society organisations, and political and religious institutions?

How are these proposals met by local community members, and what social fantasies are imagined in their visions?

About the Conference

In today’s rapidly urbanising world, rural and small-town communities are often wrongly considered as peripheral to dominant urban centres, where the most meaningful activities in social, political, and economic life are considered to occur. This is nothing new in light of the trend towards so called ‘global cities’, strategic locales whose concentration of political, cultural, and financial capital have direct and tangible effect on global cultural, political, and economic activities. However, the impacts of such trends are not a closed loop, constrained within a global network of urban centres. What happens in urban centres also visibly – and in a no-simple way – affects local ways of life in still vibrant rural and small-town societies. In many countries across the world, we see this in particular through the effects of a steady corrosion of social welfare – a phenomenon driven by an observable shift towards neoliberal policies preoccupied with entrepreneurship, the drift from small-scale rural economies to industrial agriculture, and the move from manufacturing-based economies to tourism and service-based ones.

Although these shifts have stimulated local economies to a certain degree, they have also exposed local communities to increasing wealth gaps and socio-economic stress. In a world where a majority of resources are being concentrated in growing urban landscapes, a wave of protests is rising in these “peripheral” localities. As we have observed in recent years, these social turbulences are often directly related to – or exploited by – current national conservative populist movements spreading across Europe and beyond. However, we believe that contemporary transformations in rural and small-town areas also establish a range of new possibilities, including locally-grounded social enterprises, activism and many other creative responses to global pressures such as climate change. Further, these complex grassroot processes bring a new energy to local communities that powers the reimagination of local history, heritage and identities.

Such changes are rich in meaning and open for complex analyses deserving of increased scholarly attention. We therefore invite contributions ready to shed more light on the contemporary changes underway in rural and small-town communities. We are especially open for field-based investigations that explore how rural and small-town societies are responding to challenges brought by various policies, economies and shifting social values being constituted mainly in urban centres. Additionally, we welcome research that addresses concerns of, and conditions for, sustainable development in these communities. In what ways are solutions proposed or sought through investments in tourism, agriculture, and landscape protection? How do new social movements such as ‘circular economy’ or “green wave” migrations play a role in these developments?

Conference Details

In addition to presentations and panels, the conference will also feature:
· Guest speakers
· Lunch and refreshments at the venue (free for registered participants)
· Conference dinner (Thurs., November 5, 2020; free for registered participants)

Organising Partners

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