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Promoting and sustaining rural wellbeing in a neoliberal world: Methods, case studies and critiques

Working Group 17: Promoting and sustaining rural wellbeing in a neoliberal world: Methods, case studies and critiques

Karen Scott [1], Margaret Currie [2], Lorna Philip [3]
1: University of Newcastle, UK; 2: The James Hutton Institute, UK; 3: University of Aberdeen, UK

Since the turn of the millennium there has been a dramatic rise in interest in the concept of wellbeing.  Its origins are related to a variety of other concepts including, for example, sustainability, resilience, quality of life, life satisfaction, social inclusion, happiness and the good life. Recently the framing of wellbeing as a development policy goal has become marked in academic and governance discourses. Wellbeing research has, to date, been most commonly associated with urban studies but rural social scientists have a long tradition of engaging with topics related to wellbeing and are now investigating a range of rural challenges within a wellbeing conceptual framework. 

 Understandings of wellbeing and what constitutes it varies internationally and between different disciplines.  It may be conceptualised at the scale of individual, household, community, social groups, society or the nation state.  Regardless of how wellbeing is defined however, its multi-dimensional nature suggests it is an inherently dynamic process which is intrinsically difficult to capture or ‘measure'.  Depending on how wellbeing is framed, evidenced and implemented in policy and practice, wellbeing may be co-opted by neoliberal agendas or may find more synergies with sustainable development narratives.  In this session we are keen to discuss the ways in which wellbeing research may:

  1. provide a useful conceptual framework within which a diverse range of rural development topics can be investigated;
  2. adopt a wide-range of methodological approaches, some well-established, some innovative;
  3. allow narratives which may either support or critique neoliberal standpoints.

Contributions to this session are welcomed from scholars whose work addresses ways in which wellbeing research can contribute to broader rural development, resilience and sustainability goals.  Papers that address the following broad areas are particularly welcomed:  critical reflections on the relationships between wellbeing narratives, neoliberalism and sustainable rural development; exploring the rural dimension to wellbeing research; promoting, creating and sustaining wellbeing in rural places; the application of innovative methodologies to explore wellbeing in a rural context; case studies of rural wellbeing research; wellbeing across the lifecourse.