Working groups

Working groups


  • Jane Atterton, Rural Policy Centre, Scotland’s Rural College, UK,
  • Emil Sandström, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden,
  • Luke Dilley, Akita International University, Japan
  • Menelaos Gkartzios, Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey/Newcastle University, UK
  • Nora Wahlström, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
  • Ruth Wilson, James Hutton Institute, UK


This Working Group will explore new migration flows from urban to rural and island locations that have emerged in diverse international contexts in recent years. These migration flows have emerged in response to a variety of global ‘crisis drivers’ and are impacting in different ways on these locations creating new rural imaginaries.
The Group will explore whether and how these new flows of people are leading to rural and island areas being re-imagined, reconfigured and experienced in different ways. For example, individuals may be motivated by the resurgent ‘back-to-the-land’ phenomena, or by rural areas being places of refuge from different crises (e.g. the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, and war).  Both empirical and theoretical contributions are invited that address various issues related to new migration flows from urban to rural areas, including the drivers and motivations for these moves, the characteristics of those who are moving (e.g. age, gender, income level, etc.), and the impacts on recipient rural and island communities, which may be both positive and negative.

We invite papers that explore the nature and extent of integration processes for in-migrants, and the extent to which rural and island areas are being destabilised creating potential for conflicts, as new migrants arrive with different expectations about how they may socialise and work in these spaces and how rural areas should look and the services they provide. Papers are also welcome that explore the new resources that new migrants bring which may change the future paths of rural and island communities and how they are imagined. These resources and imaginaries may support rural/island areas to become more adaptable and/or resilient (or not), and contribute to the evolution of new pathways in which rural areas can exert greater agency in changing long-established spatial relations between places. Key questions will also focus on how these new mobilities intersect with the climate change, biodiversity, food and energy crises and wider debates around repopulating the countryside and future land use and rural development trajectories.

Topic: There is increasing evidence from a number of different countries that a range of different ‘crisis drivers’ have altered the extent, drivers, geographies and impacts of migration flows from urban centres to rural and island communities (e.g. climate change, war, disease, etc.). This Working Group will bring together papers from researchers working on these migration flows in different international contexts to share evidence and insights and to identify future collaborative research papers and project/s.

Format: A traditional workshop format is proposed for this Working Group (i.e. paper presentations followed by discussion).


  • Lutz Laschewski, Sorbian Institute e.V., Bautzen/Cottbus, Germany
  • Fabian Jacobs, Sorbian Institute e.V., Bautzen/Cottbus, Germany
  • Jenny Hagemann, Sorbian Institute e.V., Bautzen/Cottbus, Germany
  • Josepha Milazzo, TELEMMe, UMR CNRS 7303, France


This WG wishes to form an interdisciplinary research group, and to establish a new agenda in one field of rural studies, including future research collaborations: we want to address European Ethnic Minority-Based Rural regions (EMBR Regions) knowing human diversification, their issues and solutions for development, notably related to integrating and valuing any minority’s cultural economy in their local sustainability strategies.  

Topic: An overwhelming number of indigenous or autochthonous ethnic minorities in Europe are rural minorities. Some of them often live in peripheral rural regions notable for distinct minority cultures – deep rural areas, island rural areas, and others. The relationship of rural, ethnic minorities to economic development and rural crisis is ambivalent. Many development paths increase the pressure to adapt and assimilate on the culture and language of the minorities. It is often particularly in contexts of spatial and/or institutional isolation where elements of the rural crisis accumulate that specific minority cultures are preserved. This raises the question in how far European ethnic minority-based rural regions can turn cultural diversity into an advantage. First, social, cultural, and environmental resources of minority-based rural regions may serve as resources for endogenous rural development strategies that aim to identify, expand, and utilise regional development potentials. Second, the existing struggle of rural minorities to maintain and protect cultural diversity may also contribute to a cultural context of “openness” towards other cultures and minorities including inter/national im/migration and other “exogenous ethnic minorities”, notably due to current events in Europe (refugee crisis, Covid crisis, relegation to the periphery of asylum seekers). European ethnic minority-based rural regions are connected by mobility and can become places where cultural diversity can be a solution to rural issues. But it can also be a challenge for the elaboration of a common and negotiated ideal, meaning, of what rural is or must be, and of rural sustainability (e.g. distinct identity and cultural affiliations, revival and new village sociabilities, cohabitation, housing, employment, negotiating of protection regimes for minority languages (and minority cultures), etc.). 
This WG wants thus to engage cross discussions on various development dynamics and issues affecting humanly diversifying European rural regions, particularly ethnic minority-based regions. We invite analyses on their challenges for endogenous sustainable regional development, notably integrating and valuing the culture and cultural economy of “old” and “new” ethnic rural minorities. 

Keywords: Cultural economy, Ethnic Minority-Based Rural regions (EMBR regions), Human diversity, International immigration, Living-together, Negotiated rural, Rural development, Sustainability. 

Format: Traditional workshop (3-4 papers presented by authors in advance of opening the floor for Q&As and wider discussion). 
Including a mixt of authors selected through a call for papers, and of authors identified as prospective participants. 



  • Examine interrelationships between changes of population size, structure and composition and rural society. 
    • Focus on determinants and consequences of rural population changes, with special focus on changes in age structure, migration, health, morbidity and mortality (including COVID), family organization, socio-economic status and ethno-racial diversity 
    • Explore both challenges and opportunities of population changes for rural communities
  • Enhance international collaboration on the social and spatial demography of rural areas
  • Explore possibilities for joint international publications on rural demography

Topic: Population change and rural community structures are mutually interrelated. Local institutions respond and adapt to changes in population size, structure and composition. In turn, demographic processes such as aging, fertility, mortality, morbidity and migration are affected by changes in rural community organization. Yet, “demography is NOT destiny”, e.g., the impacts of population change on rural community, and vice versa, are not automatic, nor necessarily direct. Rather, they are mediated by local social and economic organization, politics, etc. For example, changes in age structure have direct implications for the sufficiency of community infrastructure, but aging rural communities do not necessarily respond to aging with enhanced health and other aging-related services. Such adaptations are contingent on social, political and economic decisions at the local level. This working group examines the associations between rural population change and social, cultural and economic structure at the local level. We welcome a broad range of papers that examine the rural population-community nexus.   We encourage an inclusive group of researchers to submit papers regardless of their principal demographic or community-institutional focus.  Papers on a wide range of social-demographic issues are welcome. The common theme integrating the session is the examination of the mutual interrelationships between population change and transformations in rural community organization. Both empirical and theoretical contributions are welcome. We also welcome papers with a public policy focus that consider alternative modes of positively intervening in the population-community relationships or/and ameliorating negative aspects of population or community changes.  


  • Traditional workshops (3-4 papers + Q&A)
  • Panel discussion examining on specific issues where population and rural society interrelationships pose challenges or/and opportunities for rural people and communities
  • Panel discussion of policy responses to demographic changes in rural regions


  • Gesine Tuitjer, Thunen Institute for Rural Economics, Germany,
  • Sigrid Kroismayr, Vienna University of Business and Economics
  • Ingrid Machold, Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics, Rural and Mountain Research 

Topic and Objectives:

Arts  and Culture with their potential to bring about local, endogenous development (Ray 2001) is an influential idea in rural research. More recently, the potential of rural areas as spaces of possibilities for cultural & creative development is more widely recognized (Grabher 2018). 

However, the arts and culture have suffered significantly from the Corona crisis, the war, and related public budget cuts. These constrains affect both institutions and individuals. Cultural institutions had to close down and some cultural entrepreneurs have moved to other industries or given up their self-employed status altogether. 

Against this background, the objective of the working group is to provide a broad insight into the current situation regarding arts and culture as a means for regional development as well as with regards to the individual situation of artists in rural areas.  
We invite empirical and conceptional papers which deal with the role of arts & culture for rural development, the prerequisites thereof and the people involved.  We are particularly interested in research which tackles: 

  • Examples of projects which employ arts and culture for regional development. In what way do these projects and initiatives foster resilient rural development? In what ways can arts and culture positively influence social cohesion and a sustainable transition in rural areas? 
  • Good Practices regarding founding schemes, initiatives or budget decisions dedicated to arts and culture in rural regions.
  • The specifically rural challenges but also the potentials of rural areas for arts-based development. 
  • The individual situation of people in the arts & culture sector: What are their motives and why do they dedicate themselves to rural development? What challenges do they face in the rural context? How do they secure a living in challenging economic conditions? 

Format: Lightning talks & structured discussion
We would like to make space for a large variety of insights across Europe by organizing lightning talks and providing room for a structured discussion. In the best case, the working group can be the start of a mailing list or permanent working group within the ESRS.


  • Grabher, Gernot. 2018. “Marginality as Strategy: Leveraging Peripherality for Creativity.” Environ Plan A 50 (8): 1785–94. doi:10.1177/0308518X18784021.
  • Ray, Christopher. 2001. Culture Economies: A Perspective on Local Rural Development in Europe. With the assistance of Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle. Newcastle upon Tyne: Center for Rural Economy


  • Gary Bosworth and Robert Newbery , Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK,
  • Jane Atterton, SRUC, UK
  • Francisco Valverde, University of Grenada, Spain


Building on the successful working group “The Sociology of Rural Entrepreneurship” at Trondheim in 2019 and a satellite event in Newcastle in 2022, we aim to bring together European perspectives on the sociology of rural entrepreneurship in a multi-disciplinary space.

As a maturing academic field that draws on multidisciplinary research approaches, entrepreneurship, and the sub-field “rural entrepreneurship”, embrace contributions from multiple paradigms.   Methodologically, “The Sociology of Rural Entrepreneurship” embraces a range of positivistic and quantitative approaches that sit alongside interpretivist and socially constructed qualitative research within the field.  Our understanding of rural entrepreneurship still has much to learn from wider sociological theories and this working group encourages new developments in this field.  

Our event links strongly to the theme “Crises and the futures of rural areas” as our call for papers will encourage participants to reflect on the importance of entrepreneurial actions to help rural areas negotiate successive crises and build their future resilience. To embrace emerging forms of entrepreneurship linked to the natural economy, net zero and green growth objectives, we will also invite papers that examine how these newer motivations sit alongside more traditional drivers of rural entrepreneurs.  

Topic: The working group will focus on questions around crises in a number of ways.  These include the availability of resources and infrastructure, access to training, education and support, as well as the scope for innovation and business growth to make a difference to rural communities and the environment in the widest sense.  As such, the theme encompasses social and community-based entrepreneurship and social innovation alongside traditional “for-profit” forms of rural enterprise. 

Themes may include:

  • Social entrepreneurship and social value
  • Green and responsible business models
  • Community entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurial Landscapes and rural place making
  • New approaches in rural theory, method and measurement

Format: Traditional Format 3-4 papers with allocated discussants followed by wider discussion. The previous sessions proved popular, and we expect around 15 paper – this would ideally field 3 sessions to allow considered discussion.


  • Anna Sitek, PhD, The Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw
  • Tuuli-Marja Kleiner, Sylvia Keim-Klärner, Jessica Brensing, Thünen Institute of Rural Studies, Braunschweig, Germany

Contact: Anna ( for the commitment of NGOs & Tuuli-Marja ( for volunteering


Acute crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, but also "creeping" developments such as demographic change and outmigration, pose major challenges for societies in rural areas, be it with regard to economic issues, questions of basic public services, social cohesion or support for democracy.
In this working group, we want to bring together researchers who work on the topic of how civil society deals with and responds to these and other challenges concerning rural areas. 

We are interested and want to discuss how NGOs and volunteers in rural areas adapt their activities to the changing situation. Therefore, we seek papers that shed light on the causes, structures and consequences of volunteering as well as the actions of NGOs in rural areas. Additionally, we aim at exploring the potential for further professional exchange and future cooperation.

Topic: Civil society organizations and voluntary engagement in rural areas


  • Dimensions, forms and profiles of rural civil society, including the role of non-governmental organizations and volunteering 
  • Changes in the way rural civil society operates during and after the COVID pandemic
  • The role of non-governmental organizations as well as volunteering in fostering social cohesion, support for democracy, producing collective goods and replacing missing infrastructure in rural areas
  • Potentials and barriers for volunteering and non-governmental organizations in their work in rural areas 
  • The role of rural areas and other macro-influences on the work of NGOs and active citizens
  • The role of gender, age, class differences, family context, peers and other social relationships in non-governmental organizations and civic engagement

We welcome empirical and theoretical contributions, qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research.

Format: Working group sessions will last for 90 minutes. Traditional long paper workshops are welcome (6 papers or posters associated with presentations; 15 minutes each). The presentations will be crowned with a discussion on the directions of development of civil society organizations and volunteering in rural areas in Europe.


  • Pia Heike Johansen, Associate professor, University of Southern Denmark
  • Jens Kaae Fisker, University of Stavanger
  • Sally Shortall, Newcastle University


The 2020 World Happiness Report in a chapter on rural-urban happiness differentials concludes that rural residents in Northern and Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand generally tend to be happier than their urban counterparts (Burger et al, 2020). According to Lefebvre, the rural becomes an object of study when it poses practical problems to the urban elite which is precisely what has happened with the rural-urban happiness paradox. Having heralded the coming of a new gilded age of the city, urban triumphalism is hard-pressed to explain why the numbers do not add up; why do rural dwellers insist that they are doing fine? What qualitative difference does the rural make? The working group welcome papers for presentation with the objective to a apply for a special issue.

Topic: The recent edited anthology Rural Quality (Johansen, et al. 2020) took the finding by Burges et al. 2020 as a starting point to explore what the higher experienced quality of life, well-being and happiness among rural dwellers is about. Although the publication touches upon a broad range of topics, there are still some gaps and still room for further topics to be discussed. Topics includes gender and rural quality of life, segmentation of rural quality of life, youth culture, rural quality of life and sexual minorities and rural quality of life and commodification of rural quality of life.

The working group welcome papers and presentation on rural quality of life in a gender perspective including explorations on how the experienced quality of life when taking a gender perspective is understood, maintained, and protected and by what kind of tensions, drivers and mechanisms.

Format: 3-4 papers presented by authors in advance of opening the floor for Q&As and wider discussion followed by small table discussions.

The WG will include a separate session on women and ecological transitions across Europe. The European Commission has funded three projects to look at how to enable rural and farm women to lead on ecological transitions across Europe. Each project has living labs/ communities of practice with women; benchmarks relevant policy documents; and proposes future solutions. This session brings the three projects together. In panel debates, they will compare and debate theoretical assumptions, methodological approaches and preliminary findings.


  • Dr. Caroline Nye (main contact), Centre for Rural Policy Research (CRPR), University of Exeter
  • Dr. Rebecca Wheeler, Centre for Rural Policy Research (CRPR), University of Exeter
  • Prof. David Rose, School of Water, Energy and the Environment, Cranfield University


Participants in the workshop will have the opportunity to contribute collaboratively to a research agenda paper focusing on mental health in rural communities, the geographical focus of which will be dependent upon initial submissions to the workshop. A special issue may follow on from this if research interests and ongoing projects of participants fulfil gaps specified in the agenda.

Topic: Members of rural communities, commonly but not only, agricultural communities, are subject to multiple stressors, the burden of which can be overwhelming. The impact of this upon the mental health, wellbeing and resilience of community members has come to the fore more recently in  academic studies, government policy, and the media, with stakeholders across Europe and beyond seeking to develop strategies by which to not only support rural community members now but also ensure their resilience into the future. Who is ‘at risk’ within these communities and what are the drivers behind the destabalisation of rural structures contributing to these burdens? How do such burdens impact upon social structures within communities or businesses which they support? Are certain patterns of research or associated narratives resulting in key cohorts being overlooked? Are there methodological issues related to capturing accurate and essential information regarding who needs help, how and whether help is sought, and how help is accessed? How innovative are interventions designed to deal with social isolation and loneliness, and is belonging to a close-knit community a double-edged sword in relation to mental health, support, and help-seeking? If possible, submissions should focus on a theme to contribute to a research agenda, but this is not mandatory and all related abstract submissions are welcome.

The aim of this session will be to dig deep into past and contemporary narratives related to mental health and wellbeing in rural communities to determine if and how new pathways require creating to ensure resilience into the future.

Format: The format of this WG will be dependent upon abstract submission numbers. If sufficient numbers are received, we will organise a pecha kucha style workshop with short presentations leading to a group discussion to conclude. If fewer submissions are received, the WG will be organised as a combination of traditional workshop where 3-5 papers are presented by authors, with approximately 20 minute slots (10-15 minutes to present) and we will open for discussion and questions after each paper, with a final group discussion at the end if time allows. 



The WG focuses on the response of emerging rural community experiences from the perspective of overcoming rural crisis, with particular reference to depopulated and low population density contexts. Over the last decade, some of these territories have developed an intense community dynamism that is favoring the generation of social and cultural capital, and even forms of attachment. These experiences cover a wide range of scenarios: from those developed in “traditional” sectors such as agriculture (community supported agriculture, multifunctional farming, green care), to other areas that involves digital networks, community cooperatives, digital nomads, housing or cultural dynamization. 

Topic: In this WG particular attention is paid to new or reconfigured social and community networks, social participation experiences and new collective social groups. Community action in critical times often takes the shape of social and solidarity economy, embedded in local communities able to develop social innovation and fostering social cohesion. 

Some of the sub-themes and questions that we expect to explore and discuss are as follows:

  • Economic and managerial sphere. How claims of self-management are effective in reducing market economy effects? Which effects does recentralization of direct relationships in social, environmental, and economic sustainability produce? Which models and practical solutions can be adopted by farmers, consumers, rural population, local administrators or practitioners?
  • Characteristics and features of these actions. How do these experiences contribute to territorial dynamisation? What is the role of new technologies in this process? What is the particular relationship between depopulation and social participation? How is collective mobilisation transforming rural areas? Does collective mobilisation involve rural residents within the territory? In which ways this process affects geographical mobility? What are the roles of public administration in this phenomenon? 
  • The motivation of the participants and the decision making process. Which is the main motivation for joining these organisations? Which is the socio-demographic profile of the participants? How are taken decisions in these organizations? What are the main issues under discussion? Are these dynamics drawing different types of rural futures and, if so, what makes the difference? Can these mobilisations represent a new way of rural activism? What are their main features? 


World Café with previous lightning talks. Each session contains 5 short presentations (2-5 minutes) that are presented by the authors before moving to 5 meeting stations (tables), located around the room. Each station develops a discussion regarding one specific presentation. Participants rotate around the room to engage with the conversation, and at each new station they are briefed by the host about the previous discussion. A brief summary (3 minutes) is fed into the wider group by the table hosts at the end.


  • Tarmo Pikner, Tallinn University
  • Marlies Meijer, Wageningen University
  • Pavel Pospěch, Masaryk University
  • Elisabete Figueiredo, University of Aveiro


Recent turbulent times have reconfigured demands on rural and also shifted connections of rural to distant places and events. Multi-locality bound affects and politics can be seen as important issue to understand relational spatialities of rural in accommodating diverse disturbances and affordances. People have moved from urban areas to the rural, and from the rural to the deep rural – temporarily, part-time or for a particular stage in their lives. At the same time, they consume, produce, inhabit and identify themselves with and in other localities as well. These tendencies have evoked several negotiations and tensions on the agency of rural to be actively part of shifting socio-political alternatives in crisis recovery.

At the same time, the relationships between centres and peripheries have been changed by the crises which sparked processes of peripheralization on several levels, on different geographic scales and along the axes of different social divisions. How did the COVID pandemic contribute towards current peripheralization and what new peripheries did it produce? Who found themselves on the periphery as a result of the energy crisis? And what about the climate crisis and the peripheries – global and local, inner and outer, that it produces? 

Topic: The topics that we seek to cover in this working group include, but are not limited to, the following:

Changing relationalities

  • Entanglements between rural and urban in recovery from Covid pandemics
  • Emerging spatialities and temporalities (as a consequence of multi-locality) in shrinking regions 
  • Social representations on centre-periphery relationships and the crises
  • Inequality between centres and peripheries
  • Peripheralization as a structural and cultural process

Changing communities

  • Dispersed and empowering communities in rural change 
  • Local policy responses to emerging rural-urban mobilities
  • Colonisation of rural through multi-locality gaze  
  • Commodification of peripherality 
  • Resentment, protest and alienation on the periphery 

Climate(related) crises as a driver of change

  • New crises, new peripheries: What do the Covid crisis and the energy crisis show us about the centre-periphery relations?
  • How are the centre-periphery relations transformed in the climate crisis?
  • Social representations on centre-periphery relationships and the crises
  • Rethinking rural mobilities in context of climate crisis      

Format: The WG will use a combination of traditional format and a ‘Split session’ design, with short paper presentations as a starter, followed by an active debate in small groups.


  • Jerzy Bański, Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  • Josef Bernard, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czechia (contact person),
  • Luis Camarero, National University of Distance Education, Spain
  • Renato do Carmo, ISCTE, University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Andreas Klärner, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Institute of Rural Studies, Germany
  • Jesús Oliva, Public University of Navarra, Spain
  • María J. Rivera, University of the Basque Country, Spain


The objective of the Working Group is to offer a platform for discussing social and spatial inequalities embedded in centre-periphery and urban-rural relations. The Working Group addresses the rural gap issue, which refers to the inability of rural regions to match the standards of quality of life, services, and opportunities with urban areas, and it investigates the specific role and position of rural areas and rurality in debates about “places, that don’t matter“ and „left-behind regions“.

We plan a meeting that enables a thorough feedback for the presenters, with the potential for arranging a joint publication in form of a special issue or an edited volume.

Topic: In recent years, growing scholarly attention has focused on the social and political consequences of spatial inequalities within nation states, which have been repeatedly described as a risk to social and territorial cohesion, a repository of social and political cleavages, and a source of perceived injustice and marginalization in the rural population. 

Spatial inequalities regarding rural areas have been described using the concept of the rural gap. It refers to the inability of rural regions to match the standards of quality of life, services, and opportunities with urban areas. The down-sizing of public services, austerity policies and current economic crises give rise to growing social concerns about regional inequalities and fear of losing the local futures under the processes of peripheralization.
Political consequences of the rural gap are reflected in the discussion of “the revenge of places that don’t matter”. It argues that spatial inequalities lead to widespread discontent in the populations of disadvantaged regions who feel “left behind” and neglected by central governments. In this context there is renewed discussion of conflictual centre-periphery and urban-rural relations leading to political cleavages in modern nation states. Rurality and rural regions play an important role in the discourse. 

In these lines, the WG particularly invites papers dealing with geographical peripheralization and its social, demographic and political consequences, rural-urban divides and rural well-being, the role of mobilities in access to opportunities and services, practical examples of areas feeling left behind, as well as the discursive framing of rurality and peripherality in public and political discourse. 

Format: Extended discussant workshop: The convenors intend to prepare an intensive meeting with an in-depth feedback for the presenters. Applicants are invited to develop full/draft papers to which discussants will be assigned in advance and that will be commented by discussants during the workshop. However, organisers welcome sole presentations as well and finalise WG schedule and choreography according to the number of participants.


  • Rob Booth (contact), University of Birmingham,
  • Steven Emery, University Exeter
  • Steven McGreevy, University of Twente
  • Simona Zollet, Hiroshima University
  • Mai Kobayashi, Kyoto University


This session will look to create space for critical discussion regarding two foundational concepts that have long shaped rural and agricultural development worldwide: progress and growth. Conceptualisations of progress via technology, changing production methods and other vectors of ‘agricultural improvement’ have shaped food production for centuries. Yet in light of intersecting socio-ecological crises generated by industrialized farming, scrutinizing this ideological and teleological touchstone has become necessary. Equally, growth and expansion have often been considered metrics or dimensions of what agricultural progress should look like in practice and offer an excellent entry point for such thought. Yet the post-growth positions which have increasingly informed critical scholarship across a range of disciplines have not yet been extensively applied to agri-food system issues (Gerber, 2020; Gomiero, 2018), especially in rural contexts.  This session, therefore, aims to explore how – and with what affects – progress and growth are being related, rejected, or reinterpreted in practice using case study research from food systems actors in rural areas across the world. In doing so we are looking to create an opportunity to share knowledge, connect researchers, and develop future collaborations, including the potential for an edited volume, in this emergent critical space.
Topic: The multiple and overlapping crises the world is currently experiencing have highlighted the urgency of a systemic redesign of food production, processing, distribution, and consumption. This reality necessitates critical re-evaluation of two inherently future-oriented concepts: progress and growth. In order to begin this work, this session will look to situate consideration of diverse agri-food futures in existing agricultural practices in the present. It will look to examine and unpack ideas of progress in production for farmers and growers as manifested by lived agricultural practices in situ. Thus, the session will critically engage with inherited ideas of progress that may stifle future change, as well as novel or emerging enactments of ideas around progress that acknowledge the need for a shift towards values, practices and lifestyles based on post-growth metabolism principles, namely “sufficiency over efficiency, regeneration over extraction, distribution over accumulation, commons over private ownership and care over control” (McGreevy et al., 2022, p.2). In doing so it will ask how rural experimentations with commoning, alternative ownership models and agroecological ways of farming are challenging and redefining understandings of and approaches to progress and economic growth on the ground. These examples can also help shape discussion of how such practices can shape and are shaped by envisioned trajectories of agricultural change, and how these envisioned trajectories are narrativized, enacted and/or stifled via both agricultural producers and those involved with agricultural governance.
Format: We propose one or more sessions structured around short presentations (4-5 presentations, 10-8 minutes each per session). Following these presentations, each presenter will host a meeting station (World Cafe style) to continue the discussion with the audience (2-3 leading questions can be pre-defined) (25 minutes). The last 15 minutes will be used to present the discussion results in a plenary format.



  • Simona Zollet, Hiroshima University, (contact person for organic districts)
  • Erika Quendler, Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics, Rural and Mountain Research, Austria, (contact person for agroecology and family farming)
  • Hillary Cheruiyot, Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Kenya
  • Noureddin Driouech, CIHEAM Bari, Italy
  • Luca Colombo, FIRAB - Italian Foundation for Research in Organic and Biodynamic Agriculture
  • Giovanni Dara Guccione, CREA, Italy
  • Mary Hendrickson, University of Missouri, Columbia, United States
  • Mabel Ifeoma Onwuka, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU), Nigeria
  • Ray Kancharla, PhD scholar, Climate Change & NextGen Leadership (CC-NGL)
  • Florence Reed, Sustainable Harvest International, Central America
  • Alberto Sturla, CREA, Italy
  • Charles L. Tumuhe, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, and Uganda Martyrs University, Africa


This working group (WG) focuses on agroecological practices, especially in the context of small-scale and family farming, and on the scaling up of agroecology to support equitable, sustainable, and resilient agriculture, rural areas and food systems. It also explores the roles and functions of organic districts (also called biodistricts or eco-regions) in advancing the territorialization of agroecology and support smallholder farming. 

The WG results from the merging of the proposals of two distinct research groups, one focused on agroecological practices and smallholder/family farmers and the other on organic districts and agroecological clusters. We also focus on participatory action research and transformative epistemologies, where family farmers and rural communities are research actors rather than objects. Our objective is to facilitate knowledge exchange among international scholars and practitioners, connecting local with regional and global experiences and setting a common ground of reflection on two macro topics that, although interconnected, are seldom explored jointly. The long-term goal is to collaborate in research and knowledge exchange as well as publication and event activities. 

The WG engages with several of the Congress’ themes, in particular: 1) active responses by family farmers and other rural actors that address the multiple facets of dealing with crises in a sustainable, inclusive and resilient way; 2) innovative forms of territorial governance - such as organic districts and agroecological clusters - that can increase rural sustainability and resilience; and 3) the emergence of new narratives around rural futures in terms of patterns of localized food production and consumption, social justice, community development, environmental preservation, and the integration with other rural economic sectors.

Topic: Agroecology combines local and scientific knowledge and applies ecological and social approaches to agricultural systems, focusing on the interactions between plants, animals, humans, and the environment. Agroecology includes a number of agricultural methods that can help farmers cope with climate change and other ecological issues, but also  focuses on knowledge, economic viability, social justice and cultural diversity. Smallholders/family farmers and agroecology serve as the basis for a more locally focused, diverse, nature-positive, sustainable and resilient food system. The first part of this WG will be open to contributions on the following thematic areas:

  • Food security, nutrition and food sovereignty through agroecology;
  • Impacts of ecological, climate and socio-economic crises on small and marginal farmers and their resilience through agroecological farming practices (e.g. organic farming, agrobiodiversity, land/soil/water management, pest management, livestock, agroforestry);
  •  Agroecology-focused knowledge generation, sharing and technical support (ICT/digital transformation, knowledge co-creation and transfer, extension services);
  • Cross-cutting issues such as youth, the elderly, women and gender diversity (inclusion) and support for smallholders/family farmers. 

In recent years, increasing attention has also been paid to how to scale up agroecological practices and achieve the ‘territorialization’ of agroecology. Among the many existing initiatives, we highlight here organic districts (also called ‘organic regions’, ‘eco-regions’ or ‘bio districts’). Organic districts have been defined as territories “naturally devoted to organic, where farmers, citizens, and public authorities, realize an agreement aimed at the sustainable management of local resources, based on the principles of organic farming and agroecology”. So far most organic districts have been established in Italy, but interest in these new rural assemblages has been growing, both in Europe and beyond. This is because of their holistic, territorial approach and potential for the territorialization of agroecology and for driving sustainable rural development. Despite their increasing diffusion and their recent embedment in policy documents (i.e., the European Commission’s action plan on organic farming) however, knowledge and research on organic districts and similar initiatives remain limited. The second session of this WG will be open to case studies on the establishment, evolution, and socio-territorial dynamics of organic districts or equivalent forms of organization (such as agroecological clusters) from a variety of countries. Themes considered for inclusion in this session include (but are not limited to) the role of organic districts in:

  • Promoting an agroecological transition in agri-food systems;  
  • (Re-)building local and regional food systems and fostering relationships between local consumers and producers; 
  • Driving endogenous development and value creation at the local level; 
  • Facilitating opportunities of collaboration for social innovation and multi-actor territorial governance; 
  • Overcoming rural–urban divides and creating new narratives about the social, cultural, and economic representations of rural areas and their future.

Format: We plan to organize 3 consecutive sessions structured around a series of thematically cohesive short presentations or lightning talks followed by a panel discussion.
The first session will include case studies on how disruptions and crises in local food systems can be addressed by combining local and scientific knowledge within the framework of agroecology and smallholder family farming and putting equitable, sustainable and resilience thinking into practice.     
The second session will focus on the role of organic districts and similar international experiences (including those similar to organic districts but not explicitly defined as such) aiming to support the scaling-up and territorialization of agroecology in its various ecological, social, cultural and economic dimensions. 
The final session will bring together all speakers and audience for a discussion focused on delineating a research and policy agenda to scale-up agroecological approaches. We will also discuss plans for possible future collaborations, including shared publications. This final session will be conducted World Cafè style or a similar interactive format to collectively consolidate insights into experiences, challenges and recommendations for the future.
(*depending on the number of submissions received, more sessions can be organized)



Rural areas are often considered strategically important locations for the implementation and materialisation of bioeconomy developments. The objective of this working group is to examine the emerging linkages between the bioeconomy and regional food systems. We are interested in the following questions: How can bioeconomic technologies, products, circular business processes, and partnerships contribute to the sustainable development of regional food and agricultural systems and vice versa? What cases provide evidence of the opportunities and challenges of realising the synergies between an emerging bioeconomy and regional food systems? Where might the bioeconomy directly compete with regional food systems? What analytical lens and concepts are particularly fruitful for examining these linkages and developments?

The working group therefore directly addresses themes related to the futures for rural areas in terms of production, community, planning and technology and uses this context to examine the utility and role of different concepts for understanding these developments. 

Topic: Developing an advanced bioeconomy is a key goal of EU economic development and innovation policies. Fundamentally, the bioeconomy promises to place society on a more environmentally sustainable footing through utilising biotechnology to transform biological resources and creating new industries that produce novel bio-based products and integrate once separate economic activities and value chains. Rural areas are often considered strategically important locations for the implementation and materialisation of bioeconomy developments. 

However, the extent to which the bioeconomy can, in practice, synergise and foster the sustainable development of regional food and agricultural systems remains an open question. Existing analysis has largely focused on the tensions between, on the one hand, the emergence of a technologically advanced bioeconomy enhancing productivity, value chain efficiency and global competitiveness based on bulk commodity chains; and on the other regional and local food systems based on the development of new markets, networks and niche products emphasising natural, place-based and cultural properties. Equally, detailed analysis of the extent to which emerging bioeconomic technologies, circular production processes and actors are being integrated, successfully or not, into regional food systems has been lacking. Bioenergy developments being one area of exception. 

This session is interested in engaging with cases that address one or more of the following questions: How can bioeconomic technologies, products, circular business processes, and partnerships contribute to the sustainable development of regional food and agricultural systems and vice versa? What cases provide evidence of the opportunities and challenges of realising the synergies between an emerging bioeconomy and regional food systems? Where might the bioeconomy directly compete with regional food systems? What analytical lens and concepts are particularly fruitful for examining these linkages and developments?

Format: Short paper presentation followed by a facilitated panel discussion (4-5 speakers)


  • Damian Maye, University of Gloucestershire
  • Gianluca Brunori, University of Pisa
  • Allison-Marie Loconto, INRAE/University Gustave Eiffel
  • Nadine Arnold, Vrai Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Jessica Duncan, Wageningen University
  • Francesca Galli,University of Pisa
  • Joost Dessein, Ghent University
  • Ritwick Ghosh, Arizona State University


In the context of the food systems crisis, this working group aims to explore the intersections between conflict, transformation, and the post-political with a view towards better understanding the multiple food system crisis impacts and responses in rural Europe and beyond.

Topic: Food systems in Europe and beyond are under pressure from a series of unprecedented systemic shocks and stresses, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis, the war in Ukraine and associated energy crisis, the climate emergency, and global malnutrition and overconsumption. Crisis in food systems is not new (Ericksen, 2008; Brunori et al., 2020), but the intensity and intersection of issues in the current period is distinctive. In the present period of unrelenting crisis, we observe increased public debate about what food systems are for and a consensus framework about the need to transform (or even decelerate) food systems. Alongside food and nutrition security system outcomes, demands are growing too for other forms of private and public good e.g., for nature recovery, ecosystem services, carbon credits. The crisis also raises questions about how resilient food systems should be shaped. Multiple public demands are creating new conflicts and challenging identities and social norms. Take the farmer protests over proposed emission cuts in The Netherlands, for example, or increasing tensions between farmer groups and environmentalists about food production and rewilding (Maye et al., 2021), or renewed calls to tackle food hunger through a dismantling of the neoliberal social order via a right to food system transformation (Fakhri, 2022).

Crucially, these debates and conflicts are intensely political; they reveal the ‘scandal of democracy’ (Swyngedouw, 2009: 615). As crises, tensions, conflicts, disagreements and visions intensify and intersect they demand a radical rethink of what we mean by food systems and what we mean by equality and social justice. How do we work to resolve these issues and engage in agri-food politics now rife with conflict? This WG invites agri-food scholars to embrace this new politics of responsibility, accountability and legitimacy (Arnold et al., 2022; Canfield et al., 2022), including engagement with ideas from post-political theory and related fields (Swyngedouw, 2009; Mouffe, 2013). The crisis raises fundamental questions about how we understand food systems as nexus configurations, it asks political economy questions about responsibility, accountability and equality that demands new language, methods and research tools to deliberate just food systems futures for rural and urban citizens in Europe and afar. The crisis also raises questions about what are transformative food system policies and how the interplay between science and policy in democratic contexts can deploy its transformative potential.

We call for papers and contributions that engage critically with food system crisis and the intersections between conflict, transformation, and the post-political. We particularly welcome papers that provide a conceptual or methodological assessment of food system crisis and conflict. Empirical papers are also welcome but they should provide novel insights. Papers might engage, for example, with the following themes and related questions:

Understanding multiple food system crisis impacts and responses in rural Europe and elsewhere.
Conceptual work on conflicts and politics in food systems e.g., perspectives from post-political theory and/or post-normal science to examine consensus, conflict and transformation.

  • Understanding the role of knowledge production, use and communication, and its relation with the policy process, in times of crisis. 
  • Re-evaluating questions about sovereignty, justice, rights, responsibility, legitimacy and accountability.
  • New epistemologies and methodologies to map food system intersections and imagine socially just food futures, taking into account conflict.
  • New perspectives on the food system concept (nexus relations, critiques, alternative framings).
  • What do we mean by ‘crisis’, ‘emergency’, ‘recovery’ and ‘politics’ in food systems and why does it matter?
  • Do we need a new social contract for food systems and how to get there?
  • Do we have the right conceptual tools to meaningfully assess food systems in crisis and to actively inform what needs to be done to support food system transformation?

Format: Traditional workshop: 3-4 papers presented by authors in advance of opening to the floor for Q&As. As well as supporting dialogue and convening critical thinking towards how we conceptualise food systems and reimagine food scholar relations in a new post-political foodscape, we plan also to submit a selection of papers as a special issue to a top tier journal.


  • Jérémie Forney (contact) , Université de Neuchâtel, CEDD-agro-eco-clim, Switzerland,
  • Ika Darnhofer, Univ. of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
  • Bertille  Thareau, Ecole Supérieure des Agricultures d’Angers, France
  • Julie Hermesse, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgique
  • Philipa Nicholas-Davies, Aberystwyth University, Wales
  • Rebekka Frick, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland


The WG wants to explore the role of transdisciplinary approaches for achieving transitions to resilience and sustainability in farming and food systems in a context of growing political crises, tensions and confrontations. One of the concrete objectives is to lay the ground for a European network of institutions and researchers committed to transdisciplinary research in farming and food transitions.

Topic: Food systems have proven to be particularly vulnerable to, as well as directly involved in, past and current global crises. Supply chains have become longer and more complex, farming systems have become increasingly specialised and dependent on external inputs, and the skills and knowledge to implement resilient mixed farming practices have been lost. For many years, the need for more resilient and sustainable farming and food systems has been identified and many efforts have been invested in the transition to resilience and sustainability. However, insufficient attention has been given to the human dimension, which is often subordinate to the search for, and development of, technical interventions. This workshop starts from the statement that little has been achieved to make farming and food systems resilient and sustainable in the face of political and environmental crises, and that usual ways of thinking and organizing relations around knowledge are among the most significant explanations of this failure. In other words, the current crises have not only led us to questioning the nature of what we collectively consider normal and pointed out the need to change the way we think about the world and act in it. They also questioned how we, as researchers, go about doing research. 

In Europe and elsewhere, a growing part of the population – notably rural – rejects solutions that are imposed from the top, with pretended superiority. Transdisciplinary approaches offer an alternative way of building and sharing knowledge for the transition of farming and food systems. They have been promoted and experimented for many years now, but have remained in the margins of the knowledge system. In many instances, transdisciplinary and participative approaches are rhetorically convoked without serious implementation. To engage seriously in transdisciplinary practices in the long run, researchers need to develop an expertise that is rooted in localized partnerships and relations of trust. However, the value of this localized knowledge rarely gets recognized in the academic world. As a result, the opportunities to share learnings and best practices across groups and regions remain scarce in the domain of transdisciplinary research. 

This workshop sets out to as an attempt to stimulate and nurture collective learning in transdisciplinary research on farming and food transitions. While acknowledging the many contributions to similar efforts in the past, we contend that the need to stimulate and revive exchanges and networks has become urgent given the limitations that traditional, expert-based, disciplinary approaches have demonstrated in offering solutions to the many challenges farming and food systems are facing. These limitations are not only related to ill-fitted types of knowledge or the difficulties in addressing complex problems. It becomes obvious that they are political too. Growing tensions between authorities (including scientific authorities) and diverse social actors and populations groups are challenging the legitimacy of the knowledge produced by a so-called “urban elite”. 
To contribute to this collective reflection, the short presentations in the WG should aim at: 

  • Identifying the key contributions of transdisciplinary approaches that promote significant transitions toward more resilient and sustainable farming and food systems. What are the tools these approaches can propose that help overcoming structural lock-ins or political blockages? More specifically, what is the potential of transdisciplinary approaches to overcome political antagonisms in the quest for shared objectives? 
  • Identifying, in their diversity, and analysing the obstacles to the development of transdisciplinary approaches, with a particular attention given to the institutions of the knowledge system. 

Format: In order to promote vivid exchange and discussion, the working group will be organized following a Lightning talks model. Short presentations (2-8 minutes) will be followed by a longer and open discussion involving the audience.


  • Florence Becot, National Farm Medicine Center, USA
  • Hannah Budge, Newcastle University, England
  • Majda Černič Istenič, Sociomedical Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Hoshanah Inwood, The Ohio State University, USA
  • Lutz Laschewski, Sorbian Institute e.V., Bautzen/Cottbus, Germany
  • David Meredith, Teagasc, Ireland
  • Marie Reusch, University Gießen, Germany
  • Georg Wiesinger, Federal Institute for Agricultural Economics, Rural and Mountain Research (BAB) Vienna, Austria


The goal of this working group is three-fold: 1) further the scientific debates on social sustainability in agriculture with an eye towards understanding who works on the farm, under what conditions, and how to best support them, 2) incorporate key stakeholders’ perspectives into these discussions including farmer organizations, labor organizations, farm service providers, and policy makers, and 3) develop new networks of scholars to work towards transnational and transdisciplinary collaborations. 

Topic: In the midst of shrinking farm populations along with on-going biophysical, social, political, and economic changes, policy makers, farm organizations and researchers are asking the question of who works on the farm, who will continue to work on farms of the future and what will the nature of the work be. Aspects connected to economic viability of the farm sector, technocratic challenges, adoption of practices, and environmental issues have been the focus of much research. Less often considered, however, are aspects connected to social sustainability of farming including the health, safety, and quality of life of those who work in agriculture. Farm owners/operators are the focus of much of the work that has been completed in this area. This has, in many instances, rendered family and, particularly, non-family farm workers, the most vulnerable source of labor, largely invisible. 

We welcome papers and discussion that consider issues or topics relating to working conditions, labour conditions, the organization of work, and how these impact or condition quality of life of farmers, farm workers, farm households or rural communities. We invite colleagues to submit their theoretical and empirical contributions connected to one of the three following tracks, dealing with the respective exemplary (or other) questions:

  • Agricultural on-farm work and the organization of the agricultural labour processes with an emphasis on hired agricultural-labor. While the number of family members working on farms continues to decline, the number of dependent farm workers is increasing in relative and in some countries even in absolute terms. Are there similar trends in other traditionally family farm dominated agricultural contexts? How can these trends be explained, and how might they further develop, e.g. regarding a lack of labourers in most European countries? What do we know about social conditions of farm workers? Which policies are implemented to protect farm workers‘ rights and how effective are these measures?
  • Contemporary and future working conditions and quality of life. How is farm work changing in response to the ageing of the population of current farmers and increasing dependence on hired labour and technology? We welcome papers and discussion that explore the implications of these developments for the organisation of work and the potential impacts on health, wellbeing, safety or quality of life.
  • Linkages between farm operation and farm household with an eye towards understanding how interconnections and exchanges of resources between personal and professional spheres shape farm families’ ability to stay on the land: In what ways do the social and economic needs and challenges of the farm household shape decisions connected to the farm operation’s production and marketing decisions? In which situations does either the farm operation or the farm household receive priority and with what consequences for the other sphere? What is and what might be the role of varying farm programs and policies?

Format: This WG will combine traditional workshop formats, panel debates, World Café sessions, and poster panels. The latter interactive sessions will be used as a space to discuss themes that have emerged during the conference and discuss potential collaborations.


  • Sylvia Snijders, University of Westminster. London, UK (contact person)
  • Kin Wing (Ray) Chan, Wellcome Research Fellow, University of Exeter
  • Professor Alison Rieple (Emeritus Professor), University of Westminster
  • Jing Zhang, Doctoral Student, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University


In this Discussant Workshop, we address the issues of the emotional and social-political factors contributing to farming communities’ ability to adapt to a changing environment. 

In the livestock industry, farmers have experienced many intrinsic and extrinsic threats to their way of life in recent years: handing down the farm and knowledge, the removal of quota (e.g. EU milk quota), the ripple effects of climate change such as crop failure and the rising price of fodder, and the emergence of zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial misuse linked to intensive production. All these threats and consumers’ demand for more ethical and sustainable diets are posing challenges for rural communities with extended periods of relative stability and minimal need to re-examine their way of working, as well as fuelling the debates regarding alternative meat farming practices (e.g. backyard and organic farming). 

Previous studies have examined how farmers' emotions, which are embedded into their individual and collective identity, affect behaviour and mitigate against change (Holloway et al., 2021; Maye and Chan 2021). In some cases, emotion is bound up with notions of masculinity and being the ‘keeper’ of the land. This example of bounded thinking can act to limit openness to new views of the farmer’s role and expected behaviour (Driver, 2018; Visser et al., 2018), especially if combined with attachment to old ways and a fear of the new. 

The breaking down of habitus practices and beliefs to be replaced by new ones is a demanding process, which makes the adoption of new ways socially controversial and emotionally taxing. We are interested in examining the emotional and social-political factors that influence the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, whether these are positive (happiness with the potential benefits of any change) or negative (fear of being able to cope in a new environment) emotions; whether they are capable to ‘tinker’ or trigger alternative pathways to cope with the challenges.

Given this context, we are hoping to build a research community to discuss key theoretical concerns, learn about potential new methodologies and approaches, with the aims of co-authoring papers and building future international research, and broadening interdisciplinary collaborations.

Topic: We focus on the emotional and socio-political factors involved in driving or hindering to adaptation in the livestock farming industries. Within this topic we can identify a number of sub-themes, such as: 

  • How do farmers perceive their identities and understand their emotions when they encounter a fast-changing farming environment? 
  • What are the drivers and barriers to innovation in rural communities to response to the circumstance changes (Bruce et al., 2022; Snijders and Rieple, 2020)
  • How do the process of commercialisation, corporatisation and consumer expectations influence on the operation of animal farms?

This WG doesn't accept abstract proposals.


  • Seema Arora-Jonsson, Professor of Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences 
  • Ruth McAreavey, Professor of Sociology, Newcastle University

Topic and Objectives:

This panel engages with a number of the central themes of the conference, particularly that of sustainability. While some contend that sustainable development has been co-opted by governmental bureaucracies and the market (by decoupling economic growth from its environmental and social implications), others see it as bringing back into a conversation dominated by economic growth, important questions of environmental processes and social justice. Varied conceptions of sustainability can be found in UN documents that have guided policy as well as in academic analyses. Sustainability is now being linked to rural development policies that were already in place in European rural areas. As laid down in Agenda 2030, sustainability demands an integrative approach where the environment, economy and society need to be addressed in one frame. We explore the implications of the new policy focus on sustainability which calls for transcending geographic and disciplinary boundaries and recognising interconnecting economic, social and environmental components. We draw attention to the plurality of rural space - rather than segregating environmental governance and agrarian change from rural development framings, it is imperative that interconnections are made to fully reflect the richness of the material reality on the ground. This recognises the assets of the rural, establishing space for more positive interactions and narratives. We ask the following questions:

  • What does a transformation to ‘sustainability’ portend for the future of rural areas in Europe and how is being conceptualized? 
  • What are the multiple dimensions of sustainability in rural areas and how may we need to think and act in order to realize sustainable rural development in Europe? 

Outputs: The panel will be drawn from a forthcoming Special Issue in Sociologia Ruralis titled Multiple Dimensions of Sustainability and will also form the basis for further collaborations e.g. cross national research.

Format: Panel debate comprised of five panellists (two of whom will be early career) who will give short (five minute) presentations before opening up to discussion. All will be moderated by Seema/Ruth. (Topics for panellists include unpacking the concept of crisis in rural Europe; tensions between multiple dimensions of sustainability in food production; governance and sustainability).


  • Eirik Magnus Fuglestad, Ruralis, Norway, contact person:
  • Richard Helliwell, Ruralis, Norway
  • Aimee Morse, Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire


The objective of this working group is to engage in an empirically grounded discussion of the value of different sociological concepts; resilience, sustainability, just transition, wellbeing economy, in relation to understanding the opportunities and challenges of delivering a more socially sustainable Green Transition for rural areas. We are interested in the following questions: What concepts are best equipped to provide meaningful analysis of the dynamics of rural conflict and change? What concepts generate the most productive novel insights about fostering societal transitions that open-up possibilities for more hopeful and sustainable futures? What are the challenges these concepts face in reifying existing or past social relations and hierarchies of power?

The working group therefore directly addresses themes related to the futures for rural areas in terms of production, nature preservation, community, planning and technology and uses this context to examine the utility and role of different prominent and emerging concepts for understanding these developments. 

Topic: The future trajectories of development in rural areas have long been sites of economic, social, and political conflicts between so called ‘centre-periphery’ areas and within rural communities themselves. The Green Transition and Bioeconomy represents two EU economic development strategies with significant implications for rural communities. Both foreground strategies, technologies and programmes that are anticipated as facilitating economic renewal through mobilising rural resources and industries in new ways, creating new products, processes and economic activities whilst ensuring environmental sustainability and restoration. But what do these strategies mean for the social and cultural life of rural areas? 

High profile protest movements in Norway, France and the Netherlands over the last five years suggest that all is not well in these green and pleasant lands. Engaging with the social and cultural implications of the Green Transition and Bioeconomy strategies, notably, how these transitions can be mobilised to foster socially sustainable rural communities is therefore crucial if these transition strategies are able to deliver on their hopes and promises for long term. 

Format: Short paper presentations (3-4) followed by a World café session. We invite participants to join us in sharing ideas and experience through open discussion at the following thematic meeting stations:

  • Theme 1: Working with communities for change: How can we work with communities to instill, and understand, change towards the green transition?
  • Theme 2: Resilience and change across scale: What does resilience, sustainability and wellbeing look like at the individual, business, and community level?
  • Theme 3: Rural exceptionalism: To what extent are ‘rural crises’ exclusively rural?
  • Theme 4: Imagining alternative futures: What might resilient and sustainable rural-urban relations look like? 



This WG is intended to bring together multi- and interdisciplinary researchers at different stages of their careers to share and reflect on their experiences of responding to rural crises and to generate insights into good practice in methodological approaches in times of crisis. The WG will facilitate important conversations about how we, as researchers, can understand transformational changes in rural places, how traditional methods and research approaches are being updated and reworked during this period of rapid societal change, and what constitutes best practice for future rural research. The insights and discussion emerging from this WG will hopefully contribute to a special issue considering good practice in methodological approaches to rural crises. 

Topic: The ongoing disruptive nature of global crises such as climate change, Covid-19, war and the cost of living has been said to amount to a state of permanent crisis, or “permacrisis”, with particular implications for rural and island communities. Most notably rural spaces and their peripheries have come to be seen as places of escape and refuge, but this portrayal belies the significant complexity of these crises’ affects. In response to these rapid societal shifts, rural researchers are adapting their research designs to address new questions, adjust to evolving societal norms, and account for changes in research participants’ circumstances. 

We welcome short presentations from early career and established researchers that provide examples of how quantitative and qualitative methods have been adapted, created or applied in times of crisis, and the challenges and opportunities this brings. 

Presentations may address questions such as:

  • How do our perceptions of crisis affect our approach to rural studies, both conceptually and methodologically? 
  • What are the benefits to interdisciplinarity research teams in responding to rural research?
  • Which methods are most impactful in times of crisis in informing a policy response?
  • What methods can we use to respond to crises quickly?
  • How can we engage with research participants sensitively during difficult times?
  • What are the implications of digitalisation for rural research?
  • What lessons have we learned from crisis-related methodological adaptation for the future of rural research?
  • How can knowledge and outputs be effectively co-produced with the rural areas (places and communities) we seek to understand? 

Format: This WG will feature 8 to 10 lightning talks followed by a discussion with all presenters and attendees. 



In the context of the current crisis, rural public goods materialize the interface between agriculture and the social expectations and concerns related to nature, environment, health, material and immaterial heritage. These objects have the ability to concentrate the debates on the present and future of rural societies. This WG is the continuation of debates and shared approached initiated in the ESRS congress of Aberdeen in 2015. It had been proposed to continue the networking around the topic of public goods provided by agriculture and rural communities. Within the dedicated sessions of this WG, the participants will be invited to update the research questions and analytical frameworks related to rural public goods provisions, on the basis of their current case studies.

Topic: The trend inviting agriculture or rural communities to provide and protect natural elements, goods and services interesting the rest of the society is reinforcing. 
The aim of this WG is to continue to shed light on how contemporary sociological thought, and more generally the consideration of social dynamics, makes it possible to question the status of public goods in order to propose an interpretation with multiple dimensions. A first set of theoretical works were carried by classical economics and renewed by Ostrom’s critics of thoses “rational-egoism” approaches (Ostrom, 1990). Social sciences have then largely contributed to question the different actors and levels of organization involved in the publicization of goods (Kaul & Mendoza, 2003), recalling the diversity of production contexts and referentials (Boudes & Darrot, 2016).

Indeed public goods are the result of a process of social designation, leading to their publicization, provision and protection by a public authority - for example via dedicated funding - or by a locally involved collective  - at least federating individual forces to serve a wider dynamic. In some cases, the support or encouragement is directed toward the private actors who own and/or produce these goods, in particular farmers, when sometimes it can be produced by a rural community or a specific group of individuals supporting a good or its collective appropriation. We can then ask ourselves what situations these public or social injunctions or dynamics produce: do they change the social or professional identities of the individuals or groups involved? How do they interact with the good itself and its possible reshaping? In what way do these injunctions or dynamics create situations of tension, conflict, domination or also emancipation and empowerment?

Presentation could focus on agriculture and farmers roles in public good issues, on rural community involvement in supporting public good, and we encourage communication on the impact of crisis regarding a possible reframing of publicization process and on the link between public good and new futures frames.

Format: Depending on the number of contributions, we could propose a traditional workshop, a split session or other way of discussing presentations.


  • Michael Woods, Aberystwyth University,
  • Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins, University of Gloucestershire,
  • Pekka Salmi, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Bioeconomy & Environment, Finland,
  • Kristina Svels, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Bioeconomy & Environment, Finland
  • Jeremy Phillipson, Newcastle University, Centre for Rural Economy, UK
  • Sarah Coulthard, Newcastle University, Centre for Rural Economy, UK


The working group directly addresses the theme of the conference by exploring how rural coastal areas are or will be affected by current and anticipated future crises, responses to challenges and new opportunities. The proposed WG is a continuation of previous fisheries related working groups in ESRS congresses, but extends the scope of consideration of wider rural coastal economies and societies. The WG aims to bring together and share research on multiple aspects of the social and economic challenges facing rural coastal areas and small-scale fisheries in Europe and to develop networks for future collaboration. Potential outcomes include a journal special issue and the development of a COST Action proposal. 

Topic: The vast majority of Europe’s coastline is rural, yet conventionally relatively little attention has been paid in rural sociology to the distinctive economies, cultures and societies of rural coastal areas and the challenges that they face. Rural coastal communities have commonly been shaped by the changing fortunes of fishing, as a historically important primary industry. Coastal locations amplify the peripherality of rural localities and exacerbate problems of access to services and infrastructure. Collectively, these challenges have reinforced perceptions of rural coastal areas as ‘left-behind regions’, liminal spaces not only geographically but economically and politically, in some cases fostering support for far-right and populist parties. Furthermore, many rural coastal regions are at the forefront of contemporary crises.

The working group discusses how fisheries and coastal (as well as inland) communities can cope with crises and insecurities. The disruption of Brexit to the fisheries sector, for instance, has implications for small rural ports not only in Britain but around northwest Europe and the North Sea. Other rural coastal areas, especially on the Mediterranean, have been on the frontline of the migration crisis as the point of landing in Europe for refugees and undocumented migrants. Although COVID-19, climate change, and rising costs of living and doing business, are currently topical issues, fisheries have a long history of conflicts and crises, and the working group welcomes also historical analyses. Moreover, the working group will consider the contribution of fishing, and local seafood production and other blue livelihoods to food security. We also welcome contributions from social scientists spanning broader implications of governance systems for fisher families, gender relations and local communities, in a context of social justice. We encourage papers that seek to interpret these cases by applying and critiquing concepts of adaptation, resilience, sustainability and spatial justice, by rethinking notions of peripherality and liminality, and by envisioning future trends and trajectories, including through the use of novel, creative, participatory or integrative methods.

Format: The working group will involve traditional workshop sessions, with 3-4 papers presented by authors followed by questions, and a concluding panel session that will focus on anticipating future challenges for rural coastal areas and fisheries and the development of a social science research agenda to address these.


  • Dr Virginia Thomas, University of Exeter, UK, contact person:
  • Dr Anna Gilchrist, University of Manchester, UK
  • Dr Joe Glentworth, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
  • Dr Kim Ward, University of Plymouth, UK


Through European case studies our working group will examine how rewilding in different contexts is transforming the trajectories of rural areas and what solutions it offers for human and more-than human rural societies. The working group will foster stimulating discussion during the conference and hopes to capture this discussion in a journal special issue (e.g., in People and Nature) as well as creating the potential for future collaborations. 

The proposed working group engages directly with the conference theme of ‘Crises and the future of rural areas’; rewilding is at the forefront of proposed responses to the ecological crisis, promoted as a key tool in helping to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Yet rewilding challenges rural communities by (re)shaping rural areas and changing future trajectories. For example, rewilding has the potential to: i. change how land is used to produce food, including changing the kinds of food that are available to us, ii. change how land is used to produce energy, including changing the types of energy produced, iii. change access to rural areas, including who has access (including via (eco)tourism or educational opportunities), with attendant implications for mental and physical wellbeing, iv. change rural communities, with attendant implications for rural lives and livelihoods, v. influence rural planning policies, vi. incorporate new technologies, particularly with regard to nature-based solutions, and vii. change the way nature is viewed and protected. 

Topic: Global environmental crises have already had profound impacts on the nature of rural landscapes. Entwined with this are sociological crises: unemployment, depopulation and a severing of people from the land. In our rapidly changing world it is no longer sufficient to talk of such crises without identifying and discussing potential solutions if we are to have any prospect of a future which is viable for current and future human and more-than-human life. Rural land is both at risk from, and can offer part of the solution to, these crises but only if we radically reform our attitudes to it and its use. Rewilding is rapidly gaining traction across Europe as a transformative solution to biodiversity loss and climate change, as well as being positioned as a nature-based solution to bolster impoverished rural economies. Rewilding offers the opportunity to radically transform rural land, and the ways we produce food and conserve nature, as well as offering an alternative way of viewing, and valuing, rural landscapes. This session will explore rewilding’s potential as a solution to rural crises across Europe, we will consider rewilding and ask:

  • What rewilding will mean for the future of rural landscapes across Europe. 
  • How rewilding will shape, and be shaped by, different approaches to rural policy and different trends in rural management. 
  • What role/agency the more-than-human will have in rewilding rural landscapes.
  • How rewilding can negotiate nature recovery, resource extraction and/or a space for rural livelihoods and communities. 

Further to this we will consider the rural itself and ask whether it is i. a place for nature so that ecosystems can flourish without human intervention, ii. a location to deploy ‘nature-based solutions’ to counter our anthropogenic problems, iii. a setting for recreation and tourism, perhaps particularly for those from urban areas who often lack access to nature, and iv. whether metropolitan elites are imposing their romantic ideals of the rural on its everyday inhabitants. 
We propose exploring all these questions by comparing and contrasting rewilding across Europe. While concepts of the rural vary between European nations, rural areas face common challenges. Likewise, there are similarities and differences in rewilding approaches between different countries both because, and in spite of, different contexts. This allows us to learn useful lessons by drawing out distinctions and identifying best practice(s). 

Format: The working group will commence with ‘soap boxes’ from scholars and practitioners who research and/or practice rewilding in different countries. These will serve as a catalyst for a world café session which will form the main body of the session with tables hosted by those who gave soap box pitches. 


Topic and objectives: 

Narratives and identities have been identified as important frames in how communities and societies navigate crises and as potential drivers of adaptation processes. Water, on the other side, is a central element for understanding the identity and development pathways of many rural landscapes and communities: as a natural resource shaping rural landscapes and economies. The provision of water is heavily dependent on infrastructure, providing the material element for individual and societal practices. Climate change challenges the stability of those aspects: some communities are affected by increasing droughts and water scarcity while others are increasingly dealing with flooding and storm events that might affect the infrastructure and water provision systems of communities, highlighting the need for resilience and preparedness of rural communities. Furthermore, some rural communities will face new challenges which may need reframing of existing narratives.

In this WG we aim to explore how changes in the availability of water (e.g. scarcity, floods) challenge the existing narratives and identities of communities and inhabitants. We will discuss how rural communities are dealing with those changes and challenges, how identities are shaped by water, and how(reframed) narratives enable or hinder adaption.

The WG seeks to exchange on current research, interests, and results around the construction of place-based identities around the availability of water, and to develop a joint discussion paper that characterises the climate-change driven changes in water narratives in European rural communities.

In this WG we aim to explore the existing and future relationships between rural communities and water in the light of climate induced crises, how identities are shaped by water, and how adaptation and change are being developed in narratives of living with water. Some of the questions that we will explore are: 

  • How does the relationship between people and water shape rural areas and the challenges that rural communities currently face? How do different narratives of water shape/drive sustainable behaviour and climate action and adaptation in rural areas?
  • Are there specific challenges about water that are particularly about rural areas or that are more salient for rural areas? 
  • What role does water play in the development, transformation, and in the configuration of the identity of rural communities? 

Format: The WG seeks to combine presentations of key ideas and current research with discussion, and a facilitated structured discussion using a world café format to further explore the main questions about the transformation of narratives and identities around water.

The output of the structured discussion will be used as kick-off for the elaboration of a discussion paper on the role of water in rural narratives and the pathways for transformation that all the interested participants will be invited to join. 


  • Véronique Lucas, Rural Sociologist, INRAE, France, contact person: 
  • Terry Marsden, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning, Cardiff University, UK
  • Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Emeritus Professor of Rural Sociology, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, Adjunct Professor in the College of Humanities and Development Studies, China Agricultural University in Beijing
  • Céline Pessis, Historian & Associate Professor of Environmental Sociology, AgroParisTech, France

Topic and Objectives:

Since its creation in 1957, and through its Congresses and the Journal Sociologia ruralis, the European Society for Rural Sociology has sheltered numerous debates between rural scientists critically analyzing the processes of agricultural modernization that they were witnessing. Currently, new generations of researchers are examining with historical approaches the past processes of agricultural modernization partly at the root of the current crises in rural areas.

The proposed Working Group on “Past and future” aims at offering a space for a dialog on the critical analysis of the past agricultural modernization processes, between different generations of social scientists of different fields, i.e. past direct and new generations of indirect observers. To step back and to look the bigger picture appear necessary to better understand the current times, as well as to draw lessons to better discern the possible futures. For instance, the current crises generate new arguments for broad programs of public policies, such as the New Green Deal, or the European Green Deal, which are reminiscent of the ambition of the past public policies having shaped the agricultural modernization processes during the post-war decades. Shedding new lights on the genesis and operation of past modernization policies, as well as on the adaptations and resistances strategies of the targeted actors, could nurture the present debates on the ways to drive and support the agroecological transition processes.

Format: This working group will be organized on the basis of written papers to submit in advance of the Congress. Each paper will be assigned to a researcher of another generation than the author to discuss it, in order to favor the intergenerational debate. Works of PhD students will be particularly welcomed.

This WG doesn't accept abstract proposals.


  • Thoroddur Bjarnason, University of Iceland & University of Akureyri
  • Menelaos Gkartzios, Izmir Institute of Technology & Newcastle University (WG coordinator)
  • Esther Peeren, University of Amsterdam
  • Lee-Ann Sutherland, The James Hutton Institute 


In this participative WG, we will present “the rural gaze,” an online collective autoethnography project using photo elicitation that we started during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project departed from 1) the question of how our different backgrounds (personal/cultural/academic) influence how we analyze the rural & 2) the observation that rural studies, even though it is not a discipline, privileges certain perspectives on the rural, so that there are aspects of rural life that are over- and underrepresented. By looking at photographs of the rural we took (in the course of our research or for our personal pleasure) and discussing the associations they evoked in each of us (before and after the content of the photograph is explained), we are aiming to answer the following research questions: 

  • What do the dominant societal rural gaze (which tends to look at the rural from the urban), and the academic rural gazes of the natural sciences and rural studies include/exclude? 
  • How does our personal/academic background influence our relation to these different rural gazes? What is our position within/without rural studies as an interdiscipline with its own (dynamic) power structure?
  • In what ways are we trying to challenge/change these rural gazes (look beyond them) and/or this power structure? Are we trying to convey what the world looks like from (parts of) the rural? Are we trying to be advocates of/for the rural? And, if so, of/for what rural(s)? 

The WG responds directly to the conference themes around ‘meanings of the rural’ and, wider, representations of rurality. Rather than exploring how the discourse of the rural is reproduced outside academia (for example across policy making, media, in cultural production, etc.), we took a self-critical stance to explore our own ‘meanings of the rural’, and through this participative WG our objective is to explore those of other attendees as well. 

Topic: The topic of the WG is explained above. In terms of our WG’s fit with rural scholarship, there is a long-standing discussion on rural representations. Drawing on the cultural turn, plenty scholars have explored various and contested representations of the rural across policy, media, and lay discourses. This was followed by new understandings of rurality, both material and discursive (for example rurality as assemblages), and even creating hybrid ruralities in the way that rural places have been radically transformed by the processes of globalization and the same time these processes have also resulted in more alienated rural places. Drawing on these debates, instead of attempting to define the rural, we take a reflexive stance here to explore academic ‘own’ representations of the rural, as all participants in the “rural gaze” project are scholars working on rural topics across various disciplines. 

Format: The roundtable will start with an introduction of our project, illustrated with an example of one of the photographs we discussed, followed by short reflections from each of us on the experience of participating in this project and its provisional outcomes. The second part of the roundtable will be more experimental and will involve the audience: at the beginning of the roundtable, we will ask for photographs of ‘the rural’ to be sent to an email; a few images will then be selected to which we and the audience will respond with our associations via hashtags. We will collect and present all hashtags with Mentimeter. We will need support from one extra member from the local organization committee to pick up the images by email and select the one(s) to be discussed. Emphasis will be given on audience participation to discuss, in broader terms, a collective rural (scholarly) gaze.


  • Loka Ashwood, University of Kentucky
  • Michael Bell, University of Wisconsin-Madison, contact person:
  • Hugh Campbell, University of Otago
  • Claire Lamine, INRAE
  • Terry Marsden, Cardiff University


We explore, study, and debate how rural ideas and rural materialities create flows and stoppages, stabilities and instabilities, equalities and hierarchies, through the imposition and violation of borders, shaping mobilities and immobilities of people, food, disease, money, the more than human, and their powers. We hope to inspire discussion and publication, eventually through a special issue.

Topic: Borders can create security, but they can also create crises. They unify and they divide. They build cooperation and they invite conflict. Borders include and exclude, making members and exiles alike, both human and non-human. From colonialism to imperialism to refugees to serfdom to the installation of fencing to efforts to either localize or globalize food systems, the rural — both ideas of the rural and the material obdurateness of rural space — is deeply implicated in the construction and maintenance of political boundaries, pushing in and pushing out, patterning flows of people, matter, money, knowledge, disease, and the more than human, often to unequal, unjust, and unecologic ends. Rural crises are world crises, and rural scholars need better frameworks to understand its role, seeing the rural not as a topic of marginal importance but a crucial topic for understanding margins. We invite abstracts on themes such as:

  • Rural symbols and space in the construction and deconstruction of state-making 
  • The tensions around (de/re)territorialization and agroecological transition in food systems
  • Fencing to immobilize the human and more than human
  • New forms of enclosure
  • Constructions of membership in rural space in populism and the urban-rural divide
  • The rural in the designation and enforcement of the exile and the acceptance or rejection of the refugee
  • The rural in militarism, invasion, colonialism, and imperialism
  • Images and materialities of the rural in the governance of COVID

Format: Two 90-minute traditional workshops followed by a third “lightening talk” session. For the traditional workshops, please submit an extended abstract (500 to 2000 words); for the lightening talk session, please submit a short abstract (300 to 500 words).


  • Bernadett Csurgó, Centre for Social Sciences
  • Horzsa Gergely Horzsa, Centre for Social Sciences
  • Márta Kiss, Centre for Social Sciences
  • Megyesi Boldizsár, Centre for Social Sciences, contact


Self-promotion and reinterpretation of local identity has always been important in rural communities. Local identity building is achieved very differently by rural municipalities and regions. Rural image, place branding and place making are regarded as crucial sources for rural development, both in touristic and non-touristic areas. Rural sociology literature argues that the characteristics of place as local resources are particularly important for rural development strategies. 

Research about rural image is often characterized by pre-modern values, which play an important role in the motivation for rural migration and tourism. It is also shown that an interest in the past can help in fostering a sense of continuity, dealing with change, and developing adaptive strategies (resilience).  

In the session, we would like to discuss the results of quantitative and qualitative researches on the connections and relations between rural image, local identity and the population dynamics, living strategies, development activities of different rural areas. We seek to understand the processes in which different type of rural places and communities revitalise and rebuild their local image and identity in the context of local development. We also aim to engage into discussions about the connection among rural image and identity and population dynamics. In the session the discussions will be organized to better understand the following questions: 

  • How can placemaking contribute to improving sense of place, quality of life, strengthening identity and positive internal and external image?
  • What role can cultural heritage and tourism play in fostering a sense of continuity, dealing with change, and developing adaptive strategies?
  • What are the patterns of living strategies, local identity and rural image in the different rural areas?
  • How is local identity presented and represented inside and outside of the local community?

The session welcomes papers based on both quantitative and qualitative sociological methods and aim to generate discussion among the participants about the above mentioned topics. We plan to mix the traditional presentations with interactive word café or round table format; depending on the number of abstracts we plan lightening talks or traditional presentations.


  • Associate professor Annette Aagaard Thuesen (contact person), Danish Centre for Rural Research, Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics, University of Southern Denmark,
  • Petra Raue, Institute of Rural Studies, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Germany,
  • Dr. Kim Pollermann, Institute of Rural Studies, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Germany,


The working group engages with the themes of the conference from the angle of self-governance and inclusive governance as important for sustainable rural development in times of crisis. The aim of the working group is to promote knowledge exchange and cooperation on research on LEAD-ER/CLLD.

Topic: This working group aims to invite scholars who do research on LEADER/CLLD in different geograph-ical contexts throughout Europe and from different theoretical angles. Scholars who study similar part-nership and trisector based local rural development policies in other countries are also invited to contrib-ute. After LEADER/CLLD has been in function in around 30 years, this working group intends to take stock on and investigate what the current research topics under investigation in relation to LEADER/CLLD are? What are the crucial aspects for LEADER/CLLD being able to deliver good results and added value at the project level? What activation of the rural population has taken place and who has been included, for example in terms of gender, age, sector or institutional background? How does LEADER/CLLD provide efficient results as an example of multilevel governance implementation? And what about national net-work units and managing authorities’ contributions to this? 

Format: The working group will be arranged as paper presentations. All presenters will be asked to take on the role as discussant of another presenter’s article.



Looking at socio-ecological transformations in regard to land use and land ownership, the working group focuses on current agents of change in rural regions. We would like to explore the transformation pathways being taken in different European societies to achieve the newly multitude of land use goals (food production, energy production, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation), and thereby consider (co-)governance structures for land use. Among others we focus on the possibilities of land owners and land dwellers to participate in governance decisions and to benefit from economic gains. The Working Group aims to discuss these perspectives, which have received little attention so far, and to provide an overview of existing knowledge and research results as well as knowledge gaps and new research questions. It ideally brings together researchers who want to explore opportunities for future research collaboration in this thematic field. As a result of the comparative discussion, the possibilities of establishing a research network and, if appropriate, acquiring research projects are to be explored.

Topic: Countryside is currently being portrayed as an arena for the manifold transformations taking place and taking land. On the one hand, as land is limited, we are presumably observing a stabilisation of common authority structures and ownership models: Those who have suitable land or can secure appropriate land use rights are likely to benefit from this change. And those who live in the countryside without land ownership (or at least capital to invest in the transformations) will supposedly be left only with the disadvantages associated with the new forms of land use. One could therefore assume that the current and multiple crises will trigger or intensify not only land use conflicts, but also socio-economic tensions. On the other hand, one can presume that current transformative situations could also provide a momentum shedding light on small scale social innovations which are challenging common authority structures and ownership models. Where appropriate, new ownership and use models and participatory decision-making structures could leave their niche existence, be scaled up and structurally integrated into planning and policy.
In our working group we want to tackle the following questions in a broader European context:

  • What effects do the existing land ownership structure and related socio-economic inequalities have? 
  • What are transformation paths being taken in different European societies with regard to the broader goals of land use for a sustainable future?
  • Which structures are arising to address the shift of ownership and power constructions? On which scales do we find participation in land governance and sharing in the benefits of new forms of land use. What is the role of social innovation in those processes?

Format: Lightning talks – short presentations (4 to 8 minutes, depending on the number of qualified abstracts) will be given by the presenters before an open and moderated discussion with the audience and a collaborative visual output (e.g. mindmap).

Convenors: Kadri Leetmaa (, Pille Metspalu, Bianka Plüschke-Altof

Objectives: The Covid-19 crisis with all its restrictions and economical restructuring has pinpointed the potentials of smartification as a future strategy, particularly on the field of e-governance and e-service provision. The dominant reading of smartification, however, is rather technology- and market-based, resulting in a strong focus on smart cities whereas smart rurality is often either under-recognized or subjected to (an urban) smart development blueprint that does not necessarily fit rural realities and undermines their agency in (re)interpreting smartness. By critically questioning dominant readings of the smartness concept, focusing on restrictions and possibilities for rural agency in smart development strategies and empirically highlighting the potentials and pitfalls of rural smartification in times of crisis and for future development, the WG contributes to central themes of the conference. The WG is meant as a discussion forum as well as a platform to bring together recent research in the field, thereby opening opportunities for future collaborations.

Topic: The ‘smart city’ debate has expanded exponentially in recent decades, both in research and in the strategies of localities. Even though the ‘smart city’ is a rather overexploited concept, that in turn is dominated by the lessons learned from the largest cities in the world, it has not prevented localities around the world to follow the ‘smart city’ as a leitmotif on contemporary urban and local development. The excessive ‘urban policy mobilities’ in knowledge transfer even leads to the situation where rural areas present themselves as ‘smart cities’. This session calls for a more responsible and independent research on ’smart rurality’ and ’smartification in non-urban contexts’, incl. exploring the aspects of power and agency of rural smartification and understanding the links between smartification and new layers of regional inequality. Both more theoretical papers as well as inspiring empirical studies that help to avoid uncritical ‘smart city’ research layouts and instead contribute to the new conceptualization of smartification in non-urban contexts are welcome in the WG.

We invite:

  • Critical reflections on the dominant readings of smart city and smart rurality concepts and the impact this has on the application of these concepts in rural areas, incl. proposals for new interpretations of established understandings of “smart”, “development” and “innovation”
  • Empirical studies exploring aspects of rural power, agency, and exclusion in smart development strategies and the regional policies incentivizing these
  • Empirical studies on current uses of smart development strategies in rural areas, thereby uncovering the potentials and pitfalls in their practical application
  • Case studies introducing varied examples of rural smartification strategies, thereby shedding lights on questions of inclusion, participation, and under-recognized examples of rural smartification and innovation
  • Studies focusing on the implementation of smartification strategies in rural areas during the Covid-19 crisis

Format: The working group will be organized as a traditional long paper session. The presentation of individual papers will be followed by a critical discussion on the loaded concept of “smartness”.