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Rural gentrification: Cross-national comparisons

Working Group 22: Rural gentrification: Cross-national comparisons

Martin Phillips [1], Darren Smith [2]
1: University of Leicester, UK; 2: Loughborough University, UK

Rural gentrification can be viewed as a manifestation of the processes and problems of the neo-liberal countryside, being potentially driven by the dynamics of globalised flows of capital and labour; intensified and differentiated commodification of space nature and heritage; demands for places of recreation, rest and escape; the devaluation and re-evaluation of land and buildings; and the restructuring of society and state relations. Rural gentrification has also emphasised the need to consider the consequences of change - emphasising issues such as the social exclusion and displacement, social mobility, service accessibility and personal and community wellbeing - as well as the possibilities of opposition and resistance to dominant processes of change.

Relatively little attention has, however, been paid to the differential geographies of rural gentrification. The concept has been quite widely employed in the UK (e.g. Sutherland 2012; Stockdale 2014) and North America (e.g. Hines 2010; Nelson and Nelson, 2010; Hurley 2012; Golding 2014), but less so across Europe although recent years have seen an increasingly number of studies (e.g. Eliasson & Westland 2014; Lagerqvist 2014; Lagendijk et al 2014; Paniagua 2014; Richard et al 2014). This research still lacks the breadth and depth of urban gentrification studies, a situation that may reflect differences in extent and form of gentrification in rural and urban areas. However, as Clark (2005) argues, it is important not to conflate the geography of use of the gentrification concept with the geography of the phenomenon itself. This is an important argument given the relative lack of substantive research on rural gentrification, which means that, to date, knowledges of the geographies of rural gentrification are limited, even in the UK and North America where the process has been most studied.  In other national contexts, such as France and Portugal, it is noteworthy that there have been relatively few studies of gentrification in rural (and urban) contexts, a situation that poses intriguing questions about the differential geographies of the concept and phenomenon.

This working group seeks theoretical and empirical papers that explore the concept of rural gentrification, or association concepts (e.g. counterurbanisation, peri-urbanisation, amenity migration), examining both how these various concepts are understood and how the rural gentrification is developing in particular locations. A key aim of the working group will be to explore whether or not rural gentrification is a concept capable of explaining the form and dynamics of rural change across different national contexts?