Understanding Rural Change: Mobilities, Diversities, and Hybridizations

Rural Sociology

Rural areas have experienced dramatic changes since the turn of the century, which has made it necessary to theorize their increasing diversity (exurban residential sprawl, international flows of labour, return migrations, neorurals, rural second homes, etc.). All these mobilities, including residential tourism, seasonal migrations, and long distance commuting, are changing not only the sociological composition of rural areas but the meanings of the analytical categories of the urban and the countryside, the global and the local, and residence and mobility, gradually turning them into what might be referred to as decentred categories. Furthermore, information and communication technologies and private automobility have completely changed rural life modes, affecting labour relations, social practices, and family strategies.
Local authorities and rural institutions, policy makers and stakeholders, as well as researchers, today face a much more complex reality than imagined a few decades ago. Unexpected groups increasingly appear in
unexpected places, and the cultural-ideological imaginary of post-modernity has multiplied the meanings of the rural – heritage, food, landscape, identity, etc. – and caused its commodification through emerging regional narratives and a new specialization in rural spaces. If classical rural studies analysed the immobility of the peasant world or its transformation through the process of urban-industrial modernization, today we explore the governance of rural hybridizations. Our analysis, carried out in different areas of rural Spain, shows that the cultural assimilation hypothesis is not able to explain new rural and hybrid lifestyles and the changes in rural livelihoods. On the cont rary, we suggest that the impact of mobilities has increased the social and cultural diversity of rural areas. This paper re-examines the rural restructuring approach with the aim to theorize and include the process of hybridization in the rural debate.

Klíčová slova:
mobility; rural change; globalization; rural restructuring

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