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Geography Rural Geography
Soren Larsen


Rural geography focuses on the spatiality of rural life and environment. Its historical development as a subfield can be divided into three periods: a preliminary phase (before 1950), during which time human, regional, and cultural geography focused, mostly inadvertently, on rural landscapes as part of a broader disciplinary preference for nonmetropolitan study areas; an emergent period (1950s–1970s), when the subdiscipline was initially formalized under a rubric that emphasized agriculture, land use, and population/settlement patterns; and the contemporary period (1970s–present), marked by the integration of political-economic and post-structural theories and by new interests in rural restructuring, social movements, discourse, governance, identities, and experiences. Rural sociology is a closely related subfield that developed earlier (shortly after World War I) and has consistently produced scholarship relevant to rural-geographical interests. Traditionally, rural geography has focused on postindustrial states located mostly in the global North (e.g., in Europe and North America), along with Australia and New Zealand, but more attention is increasingly directed toward rural areas in the developing world. Today, rural geography is a healthy and vibrant subdiscipline practiced by a large international group of scholars in academia and beyond. It is well represented within the flagship specialty periodical Journal of Rural Studies, as well as in specialty research groups of national geography organizations and an array of degree and certificate programs focused on rural topics.

General Overviews and Textbooks

A number of general overviews of rural geography are available for nonspecialists and beginning students, primarily in the form of textbooks. Early texts such as Clout 1972 and Gilg 1985 are now more useful for their historical value in documenting the evolution of key questions and concerns in rural geography. The two best contemporary introductions are Woods 2005, which is a textbook overview of central themes organized under the rubric of rural restructuring, and Woods 2011, an in-depth exploration of the many different dimensions to rurality. The former is more appropriate for the nonspecialist and undergraduate student; the latter, for graduate students and scholars interested in learning more about the conceptualization of “rural.” Hart 1998 offers a modern introduction to rural geography, from the perspective of traditional American cultural geography (e.g., loosely based on the approach of Carl Sauer), which along with regionalism dominated the geographical study of the rural prior to the 1970s. Although not a textbook or formal overview, Bell 1994, an ethnographic account of life in the town of Childerley, is an accessible and prescient ethnographic introduction to many of the issues and themes that would emerge shortly thereafter in contemporary rural geography.

  • Bell, Michael M. Childerley: Nature and Morality in a Country Village. Morality and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

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    A highly readable ethnographic study of Childerley, pseudonym for a village in Hampshire, England, that focuses broadly on the social experience of nature and provides a wonderful introduction to many of the general themes in contemporary rural geography (e.g., identity, experience, class, gender).

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  • Clout, Hugh D. Rural Geography: An Introductory Survey. Pergamon Oxford Geographies. Oxford: Pergamon, 1972.

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    The first textbook to cover rural geography as a distinctive subfield, this title still stands out as part of the intellectual “bedrock” of rural geography. Chapters on population, urbanization, land-use planning, agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing mark the subfield’s early preoccupations. Focuses primarily on European examples.

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  • Gilg, Andrew W. An Introduction to Rural Geography. London and Baltimore: Edward Arnold, 1985.

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    Introduces rural geography through a comprehensive survey of scholarship published in the previous decade, as the subfield entered a period of rapid growth. Although dated, the book is a useful waymarker; particularly telling is Gilg’s argument in the final chapter that rural geography was not yet a coherent discipline and that it needed to focus on developing theory and a more precise definition of “rural.” Reprinted in 1991.

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  • Hart, John Fraser. The Rural Landscape. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

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    A complete update on Hart’s earlier (1975) title, The Look of the Land, this book represents a contemporary expression of rural-landscape interpretation based on the sensibility of Carl Sauer’s approach to cultural geography. Focuses heavily on the empirical elements of the rural landscape: rocks, plants, land division, farm structures, and towns.

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  • Woods, Michael. Rural Geography: Processes, Responses and Experiences in Rural Restructuring. London: SAGE, 2005.

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    Written primarily for undergraduate students and nonspecialists, this textbook provides an introduction to rural geography through the lens of rural restructuring. Offers comparative case studies as well as suggestions for further reading and relevant web resources at the end of each chapter.

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  • Woods, Michael. Rural. Key Ideas in Geography. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.

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    Part of Routledge’s Key Ideas in Geography series, Woods here provides an up-to-date survey of the literature on the notion of “rural,” in a detailed but accessible account. The work represents a more advanced and exhaustive review of contemporary rural scholarship than Woods 2005. It is useful to compare this text to the similar effort to survey the field made in Gilg 1985, over a quarter-century earlier.

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Non-Anglophone Sources

The bulk of scholarly research in rural geography comes from the Anglophone world and focuses on the postindustrial states of that realm—namely, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States—although current research is developing around rural issues associated with food production in the global South (see Agriculture in the Global South). This dominance notwithstanding, important work in rural geography is available in non-Anglophone sources. This section provides a selection of such sources, in the form of overviews and textbooks that provide a springboard for exploring rural geography beyond the Anglophone academic community. French geographers in particular have generated a considerable amount of work in this area. Diry 2008 is a contemporary overview of rural geography from a French perspective but with global focus, whereas Jean and Périgord 2009 offers a textbook that serves much the same function but with a concentration on France itself. Bonnamour 1997 offers a critical retrospective on French scholarship in rural geography over the last quarter of the 20th century. For Spanish-language sources, García Ramon, et al. 1995, an undergraduate textbook, is a good place to start, while Paniagua 2004 is a more focused review of contributions made by Spanish scholars to the study of the rural. Da Vinha and Candeias 2001 is notable for introducing the key elements of the “cultural turn” from Anglo-American scholarship to a Latin American audience. Finally, Henkel 2004 is a solid entrée into the study of rural change in Germany from the 19th century onward.

  • Bonnamour, Jacqueline. “La géographie rurale pendant le dernier quart de siècle.” Ruralia: Revue de l’Association des Ruralistes Francais 1.1 (1997): 2–20.

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    Provides a “stock tally” of work by ruralists in the French tradition over the last quarter of the 20th century, by reviewing recent dissertation research, discussing methodological innovations in the field, and offering suggestions for future research.

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  • da Vinha, Luís Miguel, and Marília Candeias. “Ao encontro do outro? Novas marginalidades no espaço rural.” Perfil Geográfico 3 (January 2001): 21–32.

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    Discusses the “cultural turn” in rural geography, with reference to Anglophone works, but was written in Portuguese and was intended for a Latin American audience.

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  • Diry, Jean-Paul. Les espaces ruraux. 2d ed. Paris: Armand Colin, 2008.

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    Provides an overview of rural spaces around the world, with a focus on the fate of rural areas amid global change associated with development. Examples are provided by country; also includes briefing notes, glossary, and bibliography. Originally published in 1999 (Paris: SEDES).

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  • García Ramon, Maria Dolors, Núria V. Perdices, and Antoni F. Tulla i Pujol. Geografía Rural. Colección Espacios y Sociedades 10. Madrid: Editorial Síntesis, 1995.

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    The tenth installment in the Editorial Síntesis series, titled Spaces and Societies, this textbook introduces rural geography in a Spanish-language format. Intended primarily for undergraduate university students, the book offers an overview of rural economies and societies, with a focus on food, population, location, and recreation.

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  • Henkel, Gerhard. Der ländliche Raum: Gegenwart und Wandlungsprozesse seit dem 19. Jahrhundert in Deutschland. 4th ed. Teubner Studienbücher der Geographie. Stuttgart: B. G. Teubner, 2004.

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    Noted as a classic reference work in the field, and now in its fourth edition, Henkel’s book is a historical analysis of rural change in Germany since the 19th century, with a conceptual and analytical focus on the village and village life. Following an introduction to the study of the rural as a research subject, the chapters cover myriad empirical areas of interest to rural geographers.

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  • Jean, Yves, and Michel Périgord. Géographie rurale: La ruralité en France. Géographie 128. Paris: Armand Colin, 2009.

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    Intended primarily for undergraduate geography students, this textbook introduces rural geography from a French perspective, with an emphasis on rural-urban relations, policy and planning, and mobility.

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  • Paniagua, Ángel. “La Geografía Rural, entre el Peso de la Regulación y las Orientaciones Constructivistas.” Documents d’Anàlisi Geogràfica 43.1 (2004): 123–134.

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    Paniagua reviews contributions made to the study of rural areas by Spanish academics, in an assessment of their work in representative publications. Four broad research foci are identified and include research on rural ways of life, production dynamics, management of natural and cultural resources, and social-constructivist approaches.

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Reference Resources

Cloke, et al. 2006 is a compendium of the “state of the art” of rural studies, bringing together scholars from geography and multiple other disciplines in a wide-ranging set of thirty-six essays that focus on the theorization of rurality. This book is a sound guide to the diversity of thought in contemporary rural geography. The best and most up-to-date resources for rural data and statistics, position papers, policy discussion, and public information are online. Some of these websites are sponsored by supranational organizations; most important among them are the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Commission Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development. Some state governments also provide web-based databases; among the most extensive are the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Rural Affairs, and Planning, the United Kingdom Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Public institutes with rural constituencies also offer comprehensive and accessible resources; one example from the United States, the Rural Policy Research Institute, is provided in this section.


The Journal of Rural Studies appeared in 1985 as the first interdisciplinary journal devoted to international rural scholarship, and in the early 21st century it remains a premier publication outlet for such research in geography and other disciplines. Prior to that time, much of the work in rural geography was published in periodicals operating under broader purviews of economic, regional, sociological, and regional themes. As found in premier publications such as the Annals of the Association of American Geographers and Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, these outlets still publish cutting-edge research related to rural geography. Two sociological journals—Rural Sociology and Sociologia Ruralis—routinely publish work relevant to rural geographers. The former was established in 1936 as the first flagship journal for the subdiscipline of rural sociology and today focuses primarily on rural demographics and the spatial dimensions of agriculture and food; the latter offers greater theoretical and empirical breadth of topic but a more limited geographical focus on Europe. Finally, Ruralia: Revues de l’Association des Ruralistes Français is a good example of a prominent non-Anglophone periodical that features scholarship on rural areas from around the world.

Scholarly Assessments

As a subfield, rural geography has benefited from sustained reflection on and critique of its central questions, concepts, approaches, and methodologies. Such assessments typically include a critical review of research to date and an identification of emerging and future research agendas in (and for) rural geography. Paul Cloke has been a particularly active contributor on this front, with articles that inaugurated the Journal of Rural Studies in 1985 (see Cloke 1985) and subsequently documented the incorporation both of political economy (Cloke 1989) and the “cultural turn” in rural-geographical scholarship (Cloke 1997). Philo 1992 is a prescient exhortation of the need to attend to rural Others—the marginalized and underrepresented—which was followed up on in subsequent research. Holloway and Kneafsey 2004, published over a decade later, provides a nice assessment of research that stemmed from the “cultural turn” for which Philo called. Focusing on trends in rural studies in Russia, Shubin 2006 is a useful counterpoint to the predominantly Anglo-American focus in critical assessments of the subfield. Most recently, Woods 2012 offers a prospective assessment of emerging research trends in rural geography for the 21st century.

  • Cloke, Paul J. “Whither Rural Studies?” Journal of Rural Studies 1.1 (1985): 1–9.

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    An editorial significant not only because it marks the inauguration of the Journal of Rural Studies, but also because it reflects on the scholarship leading up to the emergence of rural studies as a distinctive intellectual space. Discusses the obstacles involved in developing rural studies as a unique area of research and identifies areas requiring special attention from rural scholars. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Cloke, Paul J. “Rural Geography and Political Economy.” In New Models in Geography: The Political-Economy Perspective. Vol. 1. Edited by Richard Peet and Nigel Thrift, 164–197. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203400531Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cloke appraises the (halting, hesitant) integration of rural research within theories of political economy and identifies basic questions that require consideration for more productive synthesis to occur. The contribution is especially valuable as an indication of the key questions and problems associated with the integration of political economy in rural research, and the goal of placing rural issues in the context of broader social and economic process. Reprinted in 2001 (London: Routledge).

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  • Cloke, Paul J. “Country Backwater to Virtual Village? Rural Studies and the ‘Cultural Turn.’” Journal of Rural Studies 13.4 (October 1997): 367–375.

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    Describes and assesses the intersection of cultural studies and rural geography as part of a marked “resurgence” of academic interest in the countryside. The editorial concludes by discussing challenges and “unresolved issues.” A useful reference point for understanding the early phase of the “cultural turn” in rural geography. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Holloway, Lewis, and Moya Kneafsey. “Geographies of Rural Cultures and Societies: Introduction.” In Geographies of Rural Cultures and Societies. Edited by Lewis Holloway and Moya Kneafsey, 1–11. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.

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    Introduction to an edited volume describing the state of research in rural geography related to the “cultural turn.” Summarizes the key themes in this approach to date (cf. Cloke 1997) and identifies elements in the contributing chapters that constitute an emerging, if “fragmented,” agenda for rural scholarship.

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  • Philo, Chris. “Neglected Rural Geographies: A Review.” Journal of Rural Studies 8.2 (April 1992): 193–207.

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    Written as a review article, Philo here issues an early call for rural geographers to pay attention to “neglected” Others in their research. For over a decade, this article was an often-cited touchstone for the “cultural turn” in rural geography. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Shubin, Sergei. “The Changing Nature of Rurality and Rural Studies in Russia.” Journal of Rural Studies 22.4 (October 2006): 422–440.

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    Focusing on the practice of rural research in Russia, this article offers a geographical counterpoint to the predominantly Anglo-American perspective in the critical assessment of rural scholarship. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Woods, Michael. “New Directions in Rural Studies?” Journal of Rural Studies 28.1 (January 2012): 1–4.

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    Offers a retrospective assessment of rural-geography scholarship published in the Journal of Rural Studies since its inception in 1985, and identifies five areas of emerging research in the field for the 21st century, among them the sustainable use of resources, the intensification and reconfiguration of global mobility patterns, and redrawing the contours of state intervention in rural societies. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Progress Reports

A series of “progress reports” on rural geography appeared during the 2000s. Roche 2002, Roche 2003, and Roche 2005 offer assessments of emerging ideas and trends in rural geography around the turn of the millennium. McCarthy 2005 focuses on research related to “multifunctionality” (also see Rural Restructuring), McCarthy 2006 explores the conceptualization of alterity with reference to political economy, and McCarthy 2008 reflects on contemporary research related to exurbanization and amenity development. Most recently, Woods 2009 points out trends in interdisciplinary work on the rural, Woods 2010 offers a solid review of contemporary work on performativity in rural society, and Woods 2012 is a prescient look at new scholarship in rural geography that focuses on the future of rural space in the 21st century. When read sequentially, these reports offer in-depth commentary on emerging trends, ideas, critique, debate, and research in rural geography, and therefore are exceptionally helpful in understanding the subfield today and where it is headed. Note also that Jo Little produced a trio of these progress reports around the turn of the millennium; because they are slightly dated and more topically focused, these are cited separately in Rural Restructuring, Governance and Policy, and Identity and Practice.

  • McCarthy, James. “Rural Geography: Multifunctional Rural Geographies—Reactionary or Radical?” Progress in Human Geography 29.6 (December 2005): 773–782.

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    Concentrates on the development and political implications of rural-geographical scholarship on “multifunctionality,” a policy perspective that promotes diverse commodity and noncommodity values in rural areas. Useful for understanding the productivist/post-productivist debate (see Rural Restructuring). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • McCarthy, James. “Rural Geography: Alternative Rural Economies—The Search for Alterity in Forests, Fisheries, Food, and Fair Trade.” Progress in Human Geography 30.6 (December 2006): 803–811.

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    Focusing on alternative rural economies and the thematization of alterity, this is a helpful review of work at the intersection of political economy and cultural studies. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • McCarthy, James. “Rural Geography: Globalizing the Countryside.” Progress in Human Geography 32.1 (February 2008): 129–137.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132507082559Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Assesses current research on the globalization of rural regions through amenity migration and “American-style” suburban and exurban development. A pertinent review, given that scholarship on the “globalizing countryside” is now a leading topic in rural geography. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Roche, Michael. “Rural Geography: Searching Rural Geographies.” Progress in Human Geography 26.6 (December 2002): 823–829.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132502ph406oaSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews recent critiques of the “post-productivist” countryside; marks a moment in rural geography after which new concepts such as multifunctionality were developed in response to these critiques. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Roche, Michael. “Rural Geography: A Stock Tally of 2002.” Progress in Human Geography 27.6 (December 2003): 779–786.

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    Focuses on the adaptation and integration of literature on the global commodity chain and of Actor Network Theory within rural geography. The review is notable because the former idea spurred additional research, whereas the latter failed to spark much excitement in the subdiscipline. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Roche, Michael. “Rural Geography: A Borderland Revisited.” Progress in Human Geography 29.3 (June 2005): 299–303.

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    Reflects on alternative approaches to rural development and sustainability, as well as the continued diversity and proliferation of rural research agendas. Along with Roche’s two earlier reports, this article is a useful overview of developments in rural geography around the turn of the 21st century. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Woods, Michael. “Rural Geography: Blurring Boundaries and Making Connections.” Progress in Human Geography 33.6 (December 2009): 849–858.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132508105001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A progress report that tries to push open new areas of research in rural geography, by pointing out interdisciplinary practices and possibilities. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Woods, Michael. “Performing Rurality and Practising Rural Geography.” Progress in Human Geography 34.6 (December 2010): 835–846.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132509357356Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A reflection on the performance of rurality and its methodological implications, this is a good summary of research ideas related to embodiment and performativity in rural geography. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Woods, Michael. “Rural Geography III: Rural Futures and the Future of Rural Geography.” Progress in Human Geography 36.1 (February 2012): 125–134.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132510393135Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This progress report marks a new area of research in the subdiscipline concerned with the future of rural space, specifically the potential impacts of climate change and the future of food security. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Defining “Rural”

One of the first questions to receive sustained attention in contemporary rural geography (1970s–present) was the definition of the chief object of concern, “rural.” This question continues to occupy rural geographers today as scholarship evolves in theoretical, methodological, and empirical terms, and also as real-world rural spaces undergo continual transformation. Early efforts at a definition focused on statistical indices and operational descriptions designed to delineate rural space for empirical study and government administration; Cloke 1977 provides a good example. These efforts proved difficult and led to no satisfactory answer, which prompted Hoggart 1990 to argue against organizing research under the category of “rural” at all, and focus instead on agency-structure relationships that cut across the urban-rural divide. Beginning in earnest in the 1990s, post-structural approaches to the “rural” are reflected in a pair of social-constructivist themes. In terms of multiplicity and marginality, the first theme, Jones 1995 was among the initial studies to explore rural discourse as a way of underscoring the existence of myriad ruralities instead of a singular rural, and both Halfacree 1993 and Cloke 2006 extend this line of thought by showing how dominant understandings of “rural” actively exclude and disenfranchise “other” people, places, actors, and ideas. In terms of reflexivity, the second theme, as Cloke, et al. 1994 reveals, the very act of defining “rural” is a discursive move that has profound implications in environmental, political-economic, and subjective domains. Bell 2007 elaborates on this theme by proposing a “plural rurality” that seeks to balance the objectivism of material analysis with the reflexivity of cultural approaches. Particularly helpful in all this is Halfacree 2006, a three-fold framework of rural space that incorporates Henri Lefebvre’s theoretical emphasis on the empirical, conceptual, and lived dimensions of social life. In addition to these sources, Woods 2005 and Woods 2011 (both cited under General Overviews and Textbooks) are excellent starting points for entrée into this discussion.

  • Bell, Michael M. “The Two-ness of Rural Life and the Ends of Rural Scholarship.” Journal of Rural Studies 23.4 (October 2007): 402–415.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.03.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Engages the debate over the academic meaning of “rural” by identifying two dominant epistemologies in scholarship: the material (which Bell terms the “first rural”) and the ideal (the “second rural”), subsequently exploring their (often mutually exclusive) conceptual development and political effects while advocating a plural rurality that balances the two epistemologies (cf. Cloke 2006). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Cloke, Paul J. “An Index of Rurality for England and Wales.” Regional Studies 11.1 (1977): 31–46.

    DOI: 10.1080/09595237700185041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good example of an early empirical effort to delineate rural space for local government districts; the key innovation of this work was to move beyond the dichotomy of urban-rural into a spectrum represented by an index of five categories, ranging from “extreme rural” to “extreme non-rural” (i.e., the urban). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Cloke, Paul J. “Conceptualizing Rurality.” In Handbook of Rural Studies. Edited by Paul J. Cloke, Terry Marsden, and Patrick H. Mooney, 18–28. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2006.

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    A thorough survey of the different theoretical approaches used to conceptualize the rural since the 1970s; concludes with a discussion of rural hybridities that tacks between material and constructivist understandings of rural space and addresses current limitations associated with the “cultural turn” in rural studies (cf. Bell 2007).

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  • Cloke, Paul J., Marcus A. Doel, David Matless, Martin Phillips, and Nigel Thrift. Writing the Rural: Five Cultural Geographies. London: Paul Chapman, 1994.

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    A book that emerged serendipitously from a British Economic and Social Research Council conference on the service class in rural areas, in which five authors explore what rural means to them, with reference to social and cultural theory. Particularly engaging is Cloke’s autobiographical account of the impact of the researcher’s psychology in “doing” rural geography.

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  • Halfacree, Keith H. “Locality and Social Representation: Space, Discourse and Alternative Definitions of the Rural.” Journal of Rural Studies 9.1 (January 1993): 23–37.

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    Discusses two basic approaches to the definition of the rural—descriptive and sociocultural—and notes the emergence of a third approach—the rural as locality—in response to shortcomings in these earlier definitions. Halfacree then describes an “alternative” approach to conceptualize the rural as social representation. This article laid the groundwork for Halfacree’s “three-fold architecture” (Halfacree 2006) and is often used for its historical-conceptual overview of rural definitions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Halfacree, Keith H. “Rural Space: Constructing a Three-fold Architecture.” In Handbook of Rural Studies. Edited by Paul J. Cloke, Terry Marsden, and Patrick H. Mooney, 44–62. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2006.

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    Halfacree applies a Lefebvrian theoretical perspective to conceptualize the rural in relational terms as the tripartite production of space in practice, representation, and lived reality. Since its publication, this article has been cited consistently in discussions of how to define “rural.”

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  • Hoggart, Keith. “Let’s Do Away with Rural.” Journal of Rural Studies 6.3 (1990): 245–257.

    DOI: 10.1016/0743-0167(90)90079-NSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that efforts to delineate the rural as an empirical space and intellectual category (cf. Halfacree 1993) have resulted in the undertheorization of structural processes. In “doing away” with the rural, research would move toward analysis of structure-agency relationships across space. This article’s significance is for its critical skepticism of the notion that a workable, coherent definition of the rural can in fact be found. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Jones, Owain. “Lay Discourses of the Rural: Developments and Implications for Rural Studies.” Journal of Rural Studies 11.1 (January 1995): 35–49.

    DOI: 10.1016/0743-0167(94)00057-GSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Jones explores “lay discourses” of the rural; that is, the ways people think about the rural in their ordinary and everyday lives. The piece is valuable not only as an elaboration on the idea of rurality as social representation (cf. Halfacree 1993), but also in its discussion of the often-problematic relationship that exists between academic and everyday rural discourses. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Rural Restructuring

Rural restructuring refers to large-scale historical changes in the political-economic, sociological, and environmental dimensions of rural areas. The many different expressions and processes associated with such change have attracted the attention of a large number of contemporary rural geographers, and the topic has served as an umbrella for diverse work on agriculture (see Agriculture and Food) as well as on population and migration, social movements, and rural amenities and tourism (see Mobilities, Tourism, Social Movements). Prior to the 1980s, much of this focus was covered under research on rural development, which was largely applied and empirical in focus and lacked a critical dimension. Following the introduction of political economy models in rural geography, the central focus in restructuring scholarship has concerned the transition from a “productivist” rural structure characterized by Fordist capitalism, state management, and promotion of primary-sector activities, to a “post-productivist” structure characterized by post-Fordist capitalism, the devolution of state authority, and new markets based on the consumption of images and values associated with rural life; see Ilbery and Bowler 1998 and Woods 2005 (the latter cited under General Overviews and Textbooks) for good introductions to this transition. Hoggart and Paniagua 2001 and Evans, et al. 2002 critique the linearity and binary logic implied by a straightforward transition (see also McCarthy 2005, cited under Progress Reports), while Mather, et al. 2006 argues for a rehabilitation of the “post-productivist” concept. More-focused exploration of the key aspects of post-productivism may be found in Bell and Jayne 2010, on rural policy for creative industry; Markey, et al. 2008, on place-based policy in rural development; and Halfacree 2007, an attempt to imagine alternative post-productivist countrysides. See Agriculture and Food for related debates concerning agricultural multifunctionality.

  • Bell, David, and Mark Jayne. “The Creative Countryside: Policy and Practice in the UK Rural Cultural Economy.” Journal of Rural Studies 26.3 (July 2010): 209–218.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2010.01.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful because it represents a rare focus on creative industries in work on the restructuring of rural areas, this paper discusses the absence of rural concerns in cultural policy for the creative-industrial infrastructure in Shropshire, England. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Evans, Nick, Carol Morris, and Michael Winter. “Conceptualizing Agriculture: A Critique of Post-productivism as the New Orthodoxy.” Progress in Human Geography 26.3 (June 2002): 313–332.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132502ph372raSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article offers a helpful summary of the debates over post-productivism and a critique of the productivist/post-productivist dualism in agriculture, and presents evidence that “post-productivism” is not a valid empirical category. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Halfacree, Keith. “Trial by Space for a ‘Radical Rural’: Introducing Alternative Localities, Representations and Lives.” Journal of Rural Studies 23.2 (April 2007): 125–141.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2006.10.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Applies the three-fold model of rural space from Halfacree 2006 (cited under Defining “Rural”) to identify and imagine alternative post-productivist countrysides in the global North, from a “broadly green anti-capitalist agenda.” Represents an iteration on the tripartite conceptualization of the rural. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hoggart, Keith, and Ángel Paniagua. “What Rural Restructuring?” Journal of Rural Studies 17.1 (January 2001): 41–62.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(00)00036-XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper argues that the scholarly use of the term “post-productivism” is too vague, incoherent, and limited to be useful, and that England—one of the places most cited as a “post-productivist” landscape—does not in fact provide compelling evidence that it qualifies as such (cf. Evans, et al. 2002). Then and today, the article offers productive skepticism concerning a dichotomous and linear transition in restructuring. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Ilbery, Brian, and Ian Bowler. “From Agricultural Productivism to Post-productivism.” In The Geography of Rural Change. Edited by Brian Ilbery, 57–84. Harlow, UK: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.

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    Noted in Woods 2011 (cited under General Overviews and Textbooks) as the best introduction to the transition from agricultural productivism to post-productivism. Taken in its entirety, this book remains a useful reference for understanding basic explanations and processes involved in rural restructuring.

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  • Markey, Sean, Greg Halseth, and Don Manson. “Challenging the Inevitability of Rural Decline: Advancing the Policy of Place in Northern British Columbia.” Journal of Rural Studies 24.4 (October 2008): 409–421.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.03.012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using the example of northern British Columbia, this article is valuable for the way it uses the concept of place to rethink rural development policy, and especially for its effort to integrate productivist and post-productivist concerns through this approach. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Mather, Alexander S., Gary Hill, and Maria Nijnik. “Post-productivism and Rural Land Use: Cul de sac or Challenge for Theorization?” Journal of Rural Studies 22.4 (October 2006): 441–455.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2006.01.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents evidence for the validity of post-productivism relative to a narrower, more precise definition and argues therefore against abandoning the concept in future rural research. It is helpful to compare this article to the more skeptical Hoggart and Paniagua 2001. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Agriculture and Food

Agriculture has long been a focus, if not the focus, of study for rural geographers. Beginning in the 1920s, regional geography produced county-level surveys of agricultural resources, uses, and activity, while subsequent American cultural geography inspired by Carl Sauer focused heavily on the rural-agricultural landscape, particularly its physical features and material culture (for a recent example, see Hart 1998, cited under General Overviews and Textbooks). For the purposes of agricultural development, monitoring, and restructuring, a number of state government agencies sponsored rural research and inventory throughout the 20th century and continue to do so today, albeit in the more diverse and devolved forms associated with neoliberalism. Relatively less emphasis is placed on agricultural production in contemporary rural geography, as new theoretical and empirical interests have imagined geographies of food more broadly. Seyfang 2006 and Winter 2003 redirect academic interest toward agricultural consumption, while Bowen 2010 (cited under Agriculture in the Global South) and Jarosz 2008 focus scholarly attention on alternative and local foods. Renard 2003 provides one of the broadest and most cited overviews of regulation and governance related to Fair Trade agriculture. Little, et al. 2009 is a unique extension of feminist theory to understand the gendered nature of local and alternative foods. The major theme in this research area, however, is the (supposed) transition from a “productivist” to “post-productivist” countryside; see the works cited under Rural Restructuring for context. Wilson 2001 critiques the notion of an orderly and linear transition from agricultural productivism to post-productivism, which spurred work on the concept of “multifunctionality” (diverse uses for rural space that do not fall neatly into either category), as described in Wilson 2008. Brouwer and van der Heide 2009 provides a diverse collection of essays that assess rural multifunctionality from the perspective of land-use change and conflict. See Ilbery and Bowler 1998 (cited under Rural Restructuring) for more on the political-economic restructuring of agriculture. Note also that the Holloway and Kneafsey 2004 edited collection (cited under Scholarly Assessments) offers an entire section (Part IV) on contemporary rural-food geographies.

  • Brouwer, Floor, and C. Martijn van der Heide, eds. Multifunctional Rural Land Management: Economics and Policies. London and Sterling, VA: Earthscan, 2009.

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    An edited volume that unpacks the complexities of contemporary rural land-use change and the challenges associated with conceptualizing and creating multifunctional rural landscapes. The collection is especially valuable because of the diversity of cases and concepts covered under the topic of rural multifunctionality.

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  • Jarosz, Lucy. “The City in the Country: Growing Alternative Food Networks in Metropolitan Areas.” Journal of Rural Studies 24.3 (July 2008): 231–244.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.10.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses alternative food networks (AFNs) as a political-historical development linked to the interaction of urbanization and rural restructuring, which produces diverse and differentiated AFNs. The article is a good example of the relational (i.e., city-country) geographies involved in AFNs. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Little, Jo, Brian Ilbery, and David Watts. “Gender, Consumption and the Relocalisation of Food: A Research Agenda.” Sociologia Ruralis 49.3 (July 2009): 201–217.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9523.2009.00492.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sets forth a research agenda for a gendered approach to the study of local and alternative food consumption; based on original research from the United Kingdom, the article shows how the preference for local/alternative foods can create disproportionate pressures on women. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Renard, Marie-Christine. “Fair Trade: Quality, Market and Conventions.” Journal of Rural Studies 19.1 (January 2003): 87–96.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(02)00051-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article uses convention theory to explore Fair Trade as an alternative agro-food network based on the civic coordination of food quality and subsequent marketing via standardized labeling and pricing mechanisms, but one that is increasingly appropriated by dominant agribusiness operators in the industrial foods market. Based on this analysis, Renard suggests strategies for strengthening the Fair Trade movement. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Seyfang, Gill. “Ecological Citizenship and Sustainable Consumption: Examining Local Organic Food Networks.” Journal of Rural Studies 22.4 (October 2006): 383–395.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2006.01.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a helpful overview and critique of sustainable consumption and ecological citizenship, in the context of local organic food networks. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Walker, Richard A. “California’s Golden Road to Riches: Natural Resources and Regional Capitalism, 1848–1940.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 91.1 (2001): 167–199.

    DOI: 10.1111/0004-5608.00238Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A case study that explores the historical development of regional resource capitalism in California, wherein profits from mineral extraction were invested in industrial agriculture to create a dynamic regional economy. The article is notable for its sophisticated application of political-economic theory to understand agricultural production in the regional coevolution of rural and urban spaces. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Wilson, Geoff A. “From Productivism to Post-productivism . . . and Back Again? Exploring the (Un)changed Natural and Mental Landscapes of European Agriculture.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26.1 (March 2001): 77–102.

    DOI: 10.1111/1475-5661.00007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early and important critique of the binary logic entailed in the unidirectional transition from productivism to post-productivism, this article prompted new, more integrative conceptualizations, as in Wilson 2008. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Wilson, Geoff A. “From ‘Weak’ to ‘Strong’ Multifunctionality: Conceptualising Farm-Level Multifunctional Transitional Pathways.” Journal of Rural Studies 24.3 (July 2008): 367–383.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.12.010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides discussion of multifunctional agriculture and how it has evolved over time, from its initial conceptualization as a way forward in the productivist/post-productivist debate to its more recent iterations as an approach to the analysis of agricultural policy, farm-level decision making, and agricultural activity. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Winter, Michael. “Embeddedness, the New Food Economy and Defensive Localism.” Journal of Rural Studies 19.1 (January 2003): 23–32.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(02)00053-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a critical assessment of the notion of “embeddedness” in rural geography research related to the role of quality in promoting sustainable agriculture, showing that the concern for quality does not necessarily lead to progressive politics but may in fact articulate with more conservative positions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Agriculture in the Global South

One of the most recent developments in rural geography is the increasing focus on agriculture in the global South and its articulation with consumption and production patterns in the North. Speaking more broadly, contemporary research in rural geography (and the discipline of geography itself) has questioned the analytical division between the global North and South, and the articles cited here may perhaps represent a precursor to more globally integrated conceptualizations of agricultural systems. Particularly instructive in this regard is Bowen 2010, which draws from literature on geographical indicators (GIs) to conduct a comparative analysis of regionally labeled foods that crosses the global North–South divide, focusing simultaneously on France and Mexico. Freidberg and Goldstein 2011 and Overton and Murray 2011 offer in-depth case studies of food geographies in Kenya and Chile, respectively, thereby speaking to emergent scholarship on the spaces of rural agriculture in the developing world. Finally, Dudwick, et al. 2011 provides a broader perspective on agriculture in the global South, with reference to rural-urban land use conversion in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

  • Bowen, Sarah. “Embedding Local Places in Global Spaces: Geographical Indications as a Territorial Development Strategy.” Rural Sociology 75.2 (June 2010): 209–243.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1549-0831.2009.00007.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Significant because of its comparative case study of tequila in Mexico and Comté cheese in France, this article also serves as a recent example of sociological interest in geographical concepts to explore the regulation and marketing of regionally labeled foods. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Dudwick, Nora, Katy Hull, Roy Katayama, Forhad Shilpi, and Kenneth Simler. From Farm to Firm: Rural-Urban Transition in Developing Countries. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications, 2011.

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    This collection of country-specific assessments of the rural-urban transition in the global South builds on two World Development Reports from 2008 and 2009 and focuses on South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This book is useful for its contemporary appraisal of rural-to-urban land conversion in the developing world.

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  • Freidberg, Susanne, and Lissa Goldstein. “Alternative Food in the Global South: Reflections on a Direct Marketing Initiative in Kenya.” Journal of Rural Studies 27.1 (January 2011): 24–34.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2010.07.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Notable because of its discussion of the relative absence of scholarship on (and empirical cases of) Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) in the global South, it studies the problematic emergence of alternative foods in this part of the world, via the failed efforts of the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Overton, John, and Warwick E. Murray. “Playing the Scales: Regional Transformations and the Differentiation of Rural Space in the Chilean Wine Industry.” Journal of Rural Studies 27.1 (January 2011): 63–72.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2010.07.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses how some Chilean winemakers are pursuing low-cost production strategies, whereas others are marketing the place of origin to “upscale” their products in terms of price and market segment. A useful exploration of the complexities and contradictions involved in food production in the global South. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Governance and Policy

Prior to the 1970s, the institutions of state government were primarily in charge of the administration of rural space, with a particular emphasis on agriculture and other forms of natural-resource production. Civic stakeholders organized themselves by economic sector (i.e., agriculture, forestry, etc.) in concert with the sectoral divisions of the state. Beginning roughly in the 1970s, rural restructuring entailed not only the neoliberal “rollback” of the state, but also the emergence of new interests, constituencies, and economic activities. Goodwin 1998 makes the astute observation that state government of the rural transitioned to a much more complex process of rural governance that involves a number of organizations, actors, and interests, along with the rise of nonindustrial uses such as tourism and residential real estate. Some of this trend is foreshadowed in the earlier Cloke and Little 1990, which examines the role of the state in rural policy and development (see also Woods 2003, cited under Mobility, Tourism, Social Movements). Jones and Little 2000 provides a good discussion of the challenges associated with what the authors call “partnership governance,” and Little 2001 is a helpful review and assessment of this early phase of work on governance. Contemporary scholarship has moved in new directions. Taylor 2010 shows that the state is by no means absent in rural governance—instead, its authority lies in coordinating the devolution of decision making and management to local and other stakeholder organizations. Shortall 2008 is an interesting critique of social exclusion and participation dynamics in rural development, while Mutersbaugh, et al. 2005 is among the first studies to link the research on food certification to the broader concerns of rural governance. Finally, Cheshire, et al. 2007 is a nice survey of contemporary work on governance, in the form of an edited volume.

  • Cheshire, Lynda, Vaughan Higgins, and Geoffrey Lawrence, eds. Rural Governance: International Perspectives. Routledge Studies in Human Geography 12. New York and London: Routledge, 2007.

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    A contemporary collection of international case study research related to all areas of rural governance, with an analytical focus on the power relationships at stake in these new forms.

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  • Cloke, Paul J., and Jo Little. The Rural State? Limits to Planning in Rural Society. Oxford and New York: Clarendon, 1990.

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    An early attempt to think through the transition from government to governance (albeit not in precisely those terms) by addressing the limitations of state planning in rural areas at the local level, with reference to social theory and an empirical study of Gloucestershire, England.

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  • Goodwin, Mark. “The Governance of Rural Areas: Some Emerging Research Issues and Agendas.” Journal of Rural Studies 14.1 (January 1998): 5–12.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(97)00043-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important article for its discussion of the shift from government to governance of rural space, and for indicating a lack of research in rural studies on the new forms of governance. This article is part of a special issue on governance, with a collection of papers that collectively contribute to a research agenda on this topic. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Jones, Owain, and Jo Little. “Rural Challenge(s): Partnership and New Rural Governance.” Journal of Rural Studies 16.2 (April 2000): 171–183.

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    Discusses how partnership requirements in governance have been transferred from urban to rural areas, but without careful consideration of the unique socioeconomic contexts of the latter; this is a good early article on the challenges associated with “partnership governance.” Available online by subscription.

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  • Little, Jo. “New Rural Governance?” Progress in Human Geography 25.1 (March 2001): 97–102.

    DOI: 10.1191/030913201670015309Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The second in a series of three progress reports, this article addresses the emerging research in rural geography on governance (cf. Goodwin 1998); reviews empirical work on governance policy and stresses the absence of informed theoretical perspectives therein. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Mutersbaugh, Tad, Daniel Klooster, Marie-Christine Renard, and Peter Taylor. “Certifying Rural Spaces: Quality-Certified Products and Rural Governance.” Journal of Rural Studies 21.4 (October 2005): 381–388.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2005.10.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Part of a special issue related to food certification and rural governance, this article outlines several “cross-cutting” findings related to the topic and identifies seven areas for new research on this theme. Other articles in the issue focus on certification and governance in relation to forestry, fair trade, and organic-local foods, among other topics. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Shortall, Sally. “Are Rural Development Programmes Socially Inclusive? Social Inclusion, Civic Engagement, Participation, and Social Capital: Exploring the Differences.” Journal of Rural Studies 24.4 (October 2008): 450–457.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.01.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article focuses on social groups that are conventionally seen as excluded from rural development programs in the European Union, arguing that more nuanced interpretations both of “inclusion” and “participation” will yield more accurate understandings of social exclusion in rural policy. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Taylor, Bruce M. “Between Argument and Coercion: Social Coordination in Rural Environmental Governance.” Journal of Rural Studies 26.4 (October 2010): 383–393.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2010.05.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focusing on a debate in Australia over water quality in the Great Barrier Reef and run-off from adjacent farms, this article provides a good empirical account of the increasingly complex role of the state in coordinating “partnership governance,” as well as the myriad and shifting communicative strategies used by state, local, and other stakeholders. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Mobility, Tourism, Social Movements

Rural restructuring has entailed new, nonindustrial economic activities (e.g., tourism, amenity development) that often compete with extractive production, as well as complex and sometimes volatile social movements that politicize the very meaning of the term “rural.” Stemming from the debate over productivism and post-productivism (discussed in Rural Restructuring and Agriculture and Food), more-nuanced research projects have appeared during the first decade of the 21st century, focused on a suite of key themes. Bell and Osti 2010 is a special issue that summarizes and explores population and mobility from the perspective of society and economy, while Meng, et al. 2010 provides insight on large-scale internal rural-urban migration, through a comparative case study of China and Indonesia. Based on the prescient work in Mormon 1983, Woods 2003 is an excellent introduction to rural social movements and political activism consequent to rural restructuring, and Woods 2008 provides a summary review and introduction to a special issue on social movements that has a number of empirical case studies on the topic. Garrod, et al. 2006 offers a unique take on rural tourism from the perspective of ecological economics, while the edited volume Torres and Momsen 2011 focuses on the intersections of agriculture and tourism. Finally, Mitchell 2004 is a useful reconceptualization of counterurbanization that suggests new routes for empirical research on population movement to rural areas, with the attendant processes of exurbanization and amenity development.

  • Bell, Michael M., and Giorgio Osti. “Mobilities and Ruralities: An Introduction.” Sociologia Ruralis 50.3 (July 2010): 199–204.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9523.2010.00518.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper is the introduction to a special issue of Sociologica Ruralis that will be of interest to anyone interested in the intersection of mobility and rural restructuring, particularly in terms of rural social life and economic activity. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Garrod, Brian, Roz Wornell, and Ray Youell. “Re-conceptualising Rural Resources as Countryside Capital: The Case of Rural Tourism.” Journal of Rural Studies 22.1 (January 2006): 117–128.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2005.08.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws from ecological economics to argue for the conceptualization of the rural as a capital asset (“countryside capital”) that can be directed toward sustainable tourism practices. This article offers a way to think about how to use tourism to counteract the pressures of global rural restructuring. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Meng, Xin, Chris Manning, Li Shi, and Tadjuddin N. Effendi, eds. The Great Migration: Rural-Urban Migration in China and Indonesia. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010.

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    Describes the dynamics of internal rural-urban migration, in a comparative study of China and Indonesia, with an emphasis on the impacts such a movement has on the migrants. This is a particularly timely volume, not only given the sheer size of these migrations but also because an increasing amount of research in rural geography is addressing this phenomenon.

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  • Mitchell, Clare J. A. “Making Sense of Counterurbanization.” Journal of Rural Studies 20.1 (January 2004): 15–34.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(03)00031-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good summary of research on counterurbanization (and related processes of exurbanization and amenity development), from the perspective of rural geography; particularly helpful because it provides a framework that breaks down the broad concept of counterurbanization into more specific semantic and analytical domains. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Mormon, Marc. “The Emergence of Rural Struggles and Their Ideological Effects.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 7.4 (December 1983): 559–575.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2427.1983.tb00406.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Significant as one of the first articles to identify the shift in rural politics, from struggles over agriculture and living conditions to a fight over the meaning of rurality itself. A prescient article that is still a touchstone for contemporary research on rural restructuring and social movements. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Torres, Rebecca M., and Janet H. Momsen, eds. Tourism and Agriculture: New Geographies of Consumption, Production, and Rural Restructuring. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Geographies of Leisure, Tourism, and Mobility. New York and London: Routledge, 2011.

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    A recent collection of work related to the impacts of rural restructuring, with a specific focus on the relationship between agriculture and tourism; the case studies come both from the postindustrial and developing parts of the world.

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  • Woods, Michael. “Deconstructing Rural Protest: The Emergence of a New Social Movement.” Journal of Rural Studies 19.3 (July 2003): 309–325.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(03)00008-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a useful historical account of the development of a “politics of the rural” in the context of rural restructuring and discusses these politics in terms of literature on “new” social movements. An essential article for anyone interested in rural social movements. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Woods, Michael. “Social Movements and Rural Politics.” Journal of Rural Studies 24.2 (April 2008): 129–137.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.11.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Woods provides an overview of contemporary research on rural social movements, in this introduction to a special issue on the topic. The case-study papers in the issue are also of value—they cover social movements in Europe, North America, and Brazil, as well as the international farmer’s movement La Vía Campesina. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Identity and Practice

The interrelated themes of cultural identity and social practice stem from the “cultural turn” in rural geography in the 1990s, which involved the integration of cultural studies and post-structural approaches within rural research (see also Scholarly Assessments). It is useful to note that relatively little work in the subfield focused on rural identities prior to this time. For an early assessment of the “turn,” see Little 1999; Cloke offers a more recent review in Cloke 2006 (cited under Defining “Rural”). It is useful to read these two assessments against one another for critical and temporal perspective. Since the early 1990s, rural geographers have explored a number of marginalized and underrepresented rural “Others,” including women, children, indigenous people, and lesbian and gay communities. Cloke and Little 1997 is an early and essential source for grasping the empirical and theoretical breadth of this work. More specifically, Little 2002 is a good source for an introduction to gendered geographies of the rural, while Matthews, et al. 2000 does the same for rural children’s geographies. Bell and Valentine 1995 is a pathbreaking piece for its introduction of sexuality and lesbian and gay experiences within the purview of geographical research on rural Others. Panelli, et al. 2009 speaks to the more recent integration of indigenous and rural geographies as part of a broader effort to unsettle the stereotypical “whiteness” of the rural countryside. A related focus in this area of research has been to explore social practices not typically covered within conventional rural geography; Valentine, et al. 2008 is a fine example of this kind of analysis, with particular reference to the cultures and places of alcohol consumption. In a similar approach but with a different empirical focus, Hall and Stern 2009 explores the complex practices of place making among miners, residents, and government officials as part of the resistance to municipal amalgamation in Ontario, Canada.

  • Bell, David, and Gill Valentine. “Queer Country: Rural Lesbian and Gay Lives.” Journal of Rural Studies 11.2 (April 1995): 113–122.

    DOI: 10.1016/0743-0167(95)00013-DSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A path-breaking early article that introduced gay and lesbian studies and the topic of sexuality to rural geography as worthy of scholarly attention. Also explores the ethical issues associated with such research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Cloke, Paul J., and Jo Little, eds. Contested Countryside Cultures: Otherness, Marginalisation, and Rurality. New York and London: Routledge, 1997.

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    A seminal edited collection of work related to the “cultural turn,” focused specifically on underrepresented (or unrepresented) rural groups and identities, including women, children, the elderly, the “ethnic,” lesbian separatist communities, monsters, and others.

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  • Hall, Peter V., and Pamela Stern. “Reluctant Rural Regionalists.” Journal of Rural Studies 25.1 (January 2009): 67–76.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.06.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Notable for its focus on the intersection of the social practices of place making in the context of regional transformation, this article also speaks to broader geographical literature on resistant place identities. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Little, Jo. “Otherness, Representation and the Cultural Construction of Rurality.” Progress in Human Geography 23.3 (September 1999): 437–442.

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    An important early summary of the state of the “cultural turn” in rural research, it identifies several areas of concern related to the uncritical use of the concepts of “Otherness” and “rural idyll” in scholarly discourse. Compare this assessment to that offered in Cloke 2006 (cited under Defining “Rural”). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Little, Jo. Gender and Rural Geography: Identity, Sexuality and Power in the Countryside. Harlow, UK, and New York: Prentice Hall, 2002.

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    A foundational text for the study of gendered identities and processes in rural geography; also provides a robust introduction to feminist theory, which previously had been limited mostly to urban sociocultural geography, and explores its potential within the subdiscipline.

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  • Matthews, Hugh, Mark Taylor, Kenneth Sherwood, Faith Tucker, and Melanie Limb. “Growing-Up in the Countryside: Children and the Rural Idyll.” Journal of Rural Studies 16.2 (April 2000): 141–153.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(99)00059-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A solid source for understanding the introduction of (and possibilities for) scholarship on children’s geographies in rural studies; also significant because it shows that the common image of a rural childhood as idyllic is countered by the authors’ evidence for the experience of exclusion and disenfranchisement. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Panelli, Ruth, Phil Hubbard, Brad Coombes, and Sandie Suchet-Pearson. “De-centring White Ruralities: Ethnic Diversity, Racialisation and Indigenous Countrysides.” In Special Issue: De-centring White Ruralities: Ethnicity and Indigeneity. Journal of Rural Studies 25.4 (October 2009): 355–364.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2009.05.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An innovative discussion of the possibilities for exploring indigeneity in concert with rural geography, with a specific interest in “de-centering” the hegemonic representation of the rural as uniformly “white.” Note that this article is part of a special issue that presents a broad spectrum of case research related to the intersections of race and place in the rural setting. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Valentine, Gill, Sarah Holloway, Charlotte Knell, and Mark Jayne. “Drinking Places: Young People and Cultures of Alcohol Consumption in Rural Environments.” Journal of Rural Studies 24.1 (January 2008): 28–40.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.04.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is notable for its use of survey, interview, and participant observation methods to discern the spaces, places, and social relations of rural social practices of alcohol consumption. The further relevance of this piece is the endeavor to shift popular thinking in Britain away from the notion that binge drinking among youth is solely an urban problem. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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LAST MODIFIED: 02/26/2013

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199874002-0031

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