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What are the themes of the congress?

How can people in rural areas thrive during times of rapid, transformational change? Rural Europe is faced with many pressures arising, for example, from globalisation, migration, technological change, deregulation, escalating demands for energy, food and raw materials, and from the uneven and volatile effects of capitalism and neoliberal policies. The economic crisis and related austerity measures have hit many rural people hard. Yet people in rural areas are not passive in the face of these forces of change: exhibiting agency, resistance and a capacity to negotiate and mediate change.

The conference will provide important opportunities for social scientists to explore new evidence and approaches to understanding the relationships between people, society and rural resources under conditions of neoliberalism.

  • How are people and social groups in rural areas advantaged and disadvantaged?
  • How far should rural development policy and practice conform to the dominant discourses of neoliberalism (such as competition, market failure,  ecosystem services, self-help and sustainable intensification) and how might it seek to enable alternative, radical new possibilities, asserting alternative values and ethical principles?
  • How have alternative approaches emerged in some rural places, rooting innovation in tradition, local cultures and social movements, so spurring the 'post-neoliberal imagination'?
  • What have been the roles of urban dwellers, land-based businesses and multi-scale institutions in constituting rural spaces and land access?
  • How might property relations have to change to ensure access to land and natural resources? How can these complex processes interact to ensure social justice, food security, innovation and resilience at local, national and global levels?
  • What role should social scientists play, as academics, activists and/or as part of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary teams?