Assembling Newtown Exhibition – last few days

Over the last week, members of the public in mid Wales have had the chance to find out more about some of the GLOBAL-RURAL research at a pop-up exhibition reporting back on the in-depth fieldwork on ‘everyday globalization’ that we’ve been carrying out in the market town of Newtown for the past two years.

The exhibition tells the story of Newtown’s development and its global connections, from the pioneering mail-order business of Pryse Jones to the global business of textile firm Laura Ashley in the 1980s, to interesting business and cultural connections today. Panels describe some of the engagement in global networks that form part of everyday life in the town, including findings from a door-to-door survey of residents, and there’s a wall giving voice to the thoughts and recollections of Newtown people. Visitors are challenged to think about Newtown’s future, and to decide which icons of globalisation they would boost or bin.

There’s also opportunities to listen to some of the conversations specially recorded with people in Newtown for us by artist Caitlin Shepherd, and to view a series of short films documenting key moments in Newtown’s history.

The exhibition is open to this Saturday, 30th September, at Glanhafren Market Hall, Newtown, between 10am and 4pm.

Stop the world?

The presentation by Michael Woods to Devon Communities Together’s Rural Futures Conference, ‘Stop the world I want to get off? How rural communities respond to globalisation’ is now available on the ‘publications and presentations’ page.

Check out presentations from earlier conferences and lectures on this paper, including from this summer’s European Society for Rural Sociology and Royal Geographical Society conferences.

 

Newtown exhibition seeks residents’ views on globalization

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The residents of Newtown are invited to come and discuss their views on the effects of globalisation on the town at a new exhibition. Assembling Newtown: Moving with the Times is a ‘pop-up exhibition’ based at Newtown’s Market Hall and runs from Tuesday September 19th until Saturday September 30th (open 10am til 4pm every day except Sunday).

As part of the GLOBAL-RURAL project, researchers have been examining ‘everyday globalization’ in Newtown. Since 2015 members of the research team have been finding out more about Newtown through interviews, focus groups and fieldwork research.
They have been researching the past, present and future of Newtown, trying to find out what it takes for a small town to survive in a global age. Areas covered include migration to and from the town, the trading relationships of the town’s businesses, awareness of global events, and international influences on food, shopping and culture.

The findings of a large survey conducted by staff and students from the University in autumn 2016 were presented in the form of a report to Newtown Town Council in July.
‘The exhibition marks an ending of the Newtown phase of the wider project’ says Dr Marc Welsh, a member of the GLOBAL-RURAL team, but it is also a chance to shape the next phase which will include a book to be written next year about Newtown.

“Newtown is in many ways an archetypal small market town, common to many parts of the UK and Europe and further afield. Like all these other towns Newtown is also totally unique, with its own history, its own mix of people and businesses and buildings, and its own problems and opportunities for the future in a rapidly changing world,” said Dr Welsh. “Our work over the past two years has focused on the local to global relationships that characterise modern life, and enabled us to build a picture of Newtown and try to tell its story. This exhibition is our opportunity to tell this story back to the people of Newtown and ask them whether it makes sense to them, and whether they identify with it.”

“And”, said Dr Welsh, “with the new bypass currently being constructed around the town, we hope the exhibition also gets people thinking about the changes that are coming, the opportunities and threats these pose, and how they can influence the future development of their town.”

A central feature of the exhibition will be “Voices of Newtown” a wall of quotes from members of the local community, and exhibition organisers are hoping that people will take this opportunity to post their own thoughts.

Artist Caitlin Shepherd has also been working with the team through her ‘Listening to Newtown’ project that gives the voices of local people centre stage through new audio artworks. Caitlin will host a special recording session on the final day of the exhibition.
The exhibition also poses a number of provocative questions, including; “Imagine you had £50m to spend on Newtown, what would you spend it on?”

Often referred to as the ‘oldest new town’, Newtown/Y Drenewydd traces its roots back to 1282. Being the birth place of the globally influential industrialist and social reformer Robert Owen and the home to the first modern international mail order business (Sir Pryce Jones’ Royal Welsh Warehouse), Newtown has some claim to being truly ‘global’ for hundreds of years. Driven by extensive rural depopulation between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, which saw mid Wales lose up to 40% of its inhabitants, Newtown became the focus for an ambitious and controversial economic regeneration project during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Under the auspices of the Mid Wales Development Corporation and subsequently the Development Board for Rural Wales, new industrial estates and new housing estates were developed to attract new businesses as planners sought to double the town’s population.

The Newtown study forms part of the wider GLOBAL-RURAL project, funded by the European Research Council, which is exploring the impacts of globalization on rural areas around the world and the responses of rural communities.

Family farming, water supply and food security in Pernambuco, Brazil

In February the Global-Rural team visited the semi-arid region of Pernambuco, Brazil. This area is home to a unique biome that exists exclusively in Brazil, called Caatinga. This ecosystem is very important from the biological point of view because it has formed a vast biodiversity; rich in genetic resources and vegetation; and it presents unique fauna and flora.

During the first week, Francesca spent some time in the organization of the civil society known as SERTA (Service for Alternative Technologies) in Ibimirim and the last two weeks she visited the organization CECOR (Centre for Communitarian Rural Education) in Serra Talhada. Thanks to these organisations and their networks, Francesca was able to investigate how global issues, such as water supply and food security, are addressed at a local level by family farmers in the semi-arid Caatinga.

The Caatinga in the last four years has suffered of an unprecedented drought which has hindered agricultural production. Although the drought can be considered cyclical, the last years have seen extremely low levels of rain being registered. Some of the respondents connected it to the wider issues relating to climate change and the global warming. This scenario has pushed some of the farmers to search for other sources of incomes. Moreover most of the young population have left for the urban areas or in search of other occupations elsewhere in the country. The harsh conditions generated by the drought have thus reinforced social rural issues such as rural exodus and depopulation. However, this is just one aspect of what is happening in this semi-arid region.

In the last 20 years, civil society organisations are trying to promote agricultural practices and technological solutions that can ameliorate the rural life in the Caatinga. Their objective is not only to deal with the limits and challenges of such semi-arid areas, but rather to emphasise the potentialities of the Caatinga. As one respondent mentioned; “we aim for a cultural change that tries to ‘live with the drought’ rather than to ‘fight the drought’”. Agroecology seems to be

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Technology for Harvesting Rainwater

playing a crucial role in such cultural and technical processes. For instance, the government of Pernambuco funds courses for young people to acquire a technical qualification on agroecology, and supports other programs that aim to provide technical skills linked with agroecological practices to family farmers. Moreover, to reinforce the agricultural production of family farmers, the program “Pernambuco mais Productivo” (Pernambuco more productive) addresses issues of water supply by installing water tanks and other technologies to collect rain water. Organizations such as SERTA and CECOR have therefore the function of implementing such policies and providing the technical and social support to the farmers.

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Agroecology Technique: The Anaerobic Digester

This is clearly a short summary about the case study investigated. The research was based mainly in the municipalities of Ibimirim, Serra Talhada and Santo Cruiz do Baixo Verde and 28 interviews were conducted with young people, family farmers of the rural communities, representative of the Rural Union and collaborators of the two organizations.

At a first glance, this area does not seem to be affected by those violent global processes such as agribusiness or industrialization (mainly located in the specific area of Petrolina).  However we can observe how local assemblages are being mobilised to contest the effects of a mainstream economic development model and how regional strategies are addressing key global challenges.

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Agroecology Course in the Caatinga

 

Researching the development of rural communities in the Metropolitan Region of Salvador, Brazil

In January 2017, Francesca Fois from the GLOBAL-RURAL team travelled to Brazil to investigate how life in rural Brazil has been changed by connections with the global economy and global society and how global issues such as food security and water supply are addressed at the national, regional and local levels. GLOBAL-RURAL aims to explore several case studies across the different Brazilian biomes such as the Atlantic forest, the Caatinga (the semi-arid region), the Amazon forest and the Pampa.

The research started in the Atlantic Forest of Bahia studying how processes of industrialisation and urbanisation have affected the rural areas and, especially, the traditional communities of the Metropolitan Region of Salvador. The research has been undertaken in collaboration with Terra Mirim communitarian foundation located in the Itamboatá valley and the field assistants Daniela Sampaio (Dahvi) and Maria Isabel Nunes (Minah). Since its foundation, Terra Mirim has played a crucial role for promoting a sustainable development and for the recognition of environmental and social rights in the valley.

The research initially focused on studying the Itamboatá valley located in the municipality of Simões Filho but the scale has extended on the Metropolitan Region of Salvador as it is essential to explore the role of Salvador, the Industrial Centres of Aratú and Petrol Chemical Centre of Camaçari to understand the rural dynamics of the valley

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In this context, the research has 3 main research questions:

  1. How has the development of rural areas of the Metropolitan Region of Salvador been affected by the global economy?
  2. How do the rural traditional communities deal with issues of food security and how do the municipalities and government support such programs?
  3. How are issues of water supply and sanitation addressed in these rural areas?

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The research is using semi-structured interviews and in January the team has interviewed more than 40 people from the Metropolitan Region of Salvador such as local governors from Simões Filho and Camaçari; several institutions from the State of Bahia; residents and leaders from traditional rural communities of Terra Mirim, Dandá, Oitero, Palmares, Mapele, Guerrero, Goes Calmon; and collaborators from different organisations of the civil society and universities.

It is early to communicate the results of the research as a qualitative analysis is needed; however, the first impressions are that the rural areas of the valley have so far not been targeted with specifically development programs from the municipality of Simões Filho. The focus has rather been given to support the expansion of the industrial centres, the entrance of global capital and the advancement of the urban areas and the rural communities’ necessities are not addressed. These are some general initial findings; however, more data will be collected in March 2017 and a more detailed analysis is needed to further present the rural dynamics of the Metropolitan Region of Salvador.

For the Portuguese version see: http://terramirim.org.br/comunidades-tradicionais-rurais

 

Call for Papers: European Society for Rural Sociology and RGS-IBG Conferences

Members of the GLOBAL-RURAL team are organising a number of sessions at the forthcoming congress of the European Society for Rural Sociology, in Krakow in July, and at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) conference in London in August. We are currently calling for abstracts for potential papers in these sessions. See below for details.

European Society for Rural Sociology, 24-27 July 2017, Krakow, Poland (website)

SHAPING METHODS, SHAPING VOICES AND THE ENGAGEMENT OF DISCOURSES IN AN AGE OF UNEVEN CHANGE (WG13)

Convenors: Anthonia Onyeahialam and Michael Woods

The process of rural change is uneven, a consequence of the complexity associated with the involvement of the interrelated dimensions of change, actors, stakeholders and diverse places. Capturing these unevenness and its causes is often met with conflict of choice, purpose, voices and representations. In unpacking these to provide answers to rural problems, researchers have progressed beyond, to mix and cross the known traditional methodological boundaries at different points of their research – data collection, analysis, representation and communication. How we choose and reflect on the choices has implications for the type and diversity of knowledge chosen, produced and disseminated in these contemporary times.

This session is to allow researchers to reflect on their choice of methods and to question how it impacts on the creation, production and dissemination of knowledge and the co(s) of them. Thus, we are looking for demonstrable examples of actual work, focusing on how the research was carried out, how it has embraced multiple voices and interpretations of knowledge within the context of the conference theme rather than on details of the work. We seek research that draws on multiple methods within the quantitative to qualitative realms or at its nexus; combine multiple and diverse data sources in new and innovative ways beyond the traditional; research introducing new analytics, techniques such as digital technologies and research designs drawing on contemporary research methods using new types of data – big and small data, visual methodologies like Geographical Information Systems (GIS), mixed methods; how these choices have been used to communicate, (mis)interpret knowledge, exclude or include voices, challenge or re-inforce inequality or justice and influence policy for rural change.

Please send abstracts to aio@aber.ac.uk and m.woods@aber.ac.uk by 13th January 2017.

AGEING, AUSTERITY AND ENGAGEMENT: IMPLICATIONS FOR PARTICIPATION AND KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION IN RURAL CIVIL SOCIETY ACROSS THE LIFECOURSE (WG15)

Convenors: Jesse Heley, Laura Jones and Sophie Yarker

This working group wishes to consider the intersections between uneven processes of economic austerity and population ageing on voluntary organisation in rural communities. Reductions in public sector funding have been keenly felt in many rural areas, where a diversely ageing population faces long-standing issues of accessibility, service proximity, mobility and social isolation. However, the impacts of this context are not only felt by older members of the community but are experienced throughout the voluntary and community sector tasked with responding to these socio-political challenges.

Responding to a call to produce more ‘enlivened’ understandings of volunteering (Smith et al. 2010) this working group wishes to draw on Mills’s (2014) use of a lifecourse analysis to consider the diversity of these multiple knowledges across different ages of volunteers in rural communities. It proposes to explore how the development of such knowledge’s contributes both to the individual as well as the social and economic wellbeing of the communities and organisations concerned.  Such issues are of critical concern in the ongoing context of austerity, where differentiated patterns of volunteer availability and retention, motivation and values, and responsibility and obligation are emerging. Different theoretical approaches, including of Stebbins’ typology of volunteering(Stebbins 2014) , for better understanding the changing social, political and economic climate within which rural volunteering occurs are to be considered.

Please send abstracts to Sophie Yarker (sky1@aber.ac.uk)  by 13th January 2017.

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND CITIZENS’ INITIATIVES: GEOGRAPHIES, POWER RELATIONS AND DETERMINANTS OF SUCCESS AND IMPACT (WG17)

Convenors: Carol Richards, Robyn Mayes, Michael Woods, Dirk Strijker and Koen Salemink

This working group seeks to encourage critical debate and scholarly collaboration around the geographies, determinants, and impact of social movements and initiatives in rural areas.

A wide range of social movements and citizens’ initiatives play an ever more important role in rural areas, varying from very much locally based initiatives (e.g. managing a village hall) to more globally inspired mobilizations around controversial and ideological topics (e.g. GMOs, palm oil, animal welfare). A common feature in these initiatives and movements, however, are the urban-based discourses which dominate both popular narratives and policy considerations, revealing a complex urban-rural political context.

Developments around rural social movements and initiatives show that some are more successful than others, some regions seem better equipped to start initiatives, and some themes allow for a more prominent mobilization of actors. It appears that the complexity of the tasks, and the competences and perseverance of the organizers, are important determinants for success. There is some evidence that other determinants also play a role, such as the type of objectives, scale, and power of the various actors. Most importantly, though, a common conclusion is that further research is needed to fully grasp and unpack these phenomena.

In this WG we are looking for papers focusing on the geographies of initiatives and movements, and on determinants of success, especially those focusing on the actors involved and power constellations. Initiatives and movements discussed could cover the fields of resource extraction, agricultural practices, (public) service provision, energy, maintenance of public spaces, local economic development, etc. Papers can be exploratory, works in progress, empirical and/or theoretical.

Please send abstracts to Carol Richards (c6.richards@qut.edu.au) and Dirk Strijker (d.strijker@rug.nl) by 13th January.

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Conference, 29 August – 1 September 2017, London, UK (website)

(EN)COUNTERING CHANGE, (DIS)ASSEMBLING PLACENESS

Convenors: Marc Welsh and Sam Saville

Place is a foundational concept in human geography, albeit one conceived in different ways to do different forms of analytical work. From meaning and phenomenological centred notions (Relph, Tuan, Creswell); to their construction as sites of capital accumulation, pools of stability in an ocean of global change (Harvey); to attention to the processual dynamics of the ‘constant becoming’ of place (Pred, Thrift); to Massey’s decentred relational ‘sense of place’; to more applied turns to theorise the making of places (Marsden, Healey), ‘place’ retains conceptual and analytical power.  For all its centrality as a cornerstone of geographical thought and research, for all the studies and analysis that have interrogated, played with and sought to make meaningful the concept we contend that there is still place for an ongoing re-consideration of place.

 We are interested in drawing together insights from different theoretical approaches that triangulate on the matter of place, its making and unmaking, in an increasingly interconnected world. Do recent ‘turns’ and ontological reframings (relational, affective, networked, mobile, virtual, assemblaged and nexused) offer novel ways to examine processes generative of continuity and change coming together in topological and topographical places?

 In this session we seek empirically informed theoretical papers that explore place and placeness in the modern era.

 Contributions might respond to the following questions:

  •  What theoretical approaches can help to capture and interrogate the persistence of placeness when place is conceived as relational, emergent, in a continual state of becoming and shifting instability?
  •  How helpful are turns towards complexity, assemblage and nexus-thinking in thinking about the processes of place? How is place best conceived for this kind of work?
  •  How can geographical insights speak back to those seeking to “make place” or produce a “sense of place”, to enhance placeness?

 The expected format is 15 minute presentation slots with 5 minutes for questions afterwards and a chaired discussion.

Please submit an abstract to the session convenors, Marc Welsh (maw@aber.ac.uk) and Samantha Saville (sms10@aber.ac.uk) of no more than 250 words by Friday 3rd February 2017.

RURAL COSMOPOLITANISM: PEOPLE, LOCALITIES AND MOBILITIES

Convenors: Rhys Dafydd Jones and Michael Woods

Popular narratives of the countryside emphasise its supposed stability and its perceived lack of change and diversity, constructed in opposition to dynamic urban spaces that are nodes in global networks.  In this session we explore the ways in which rural spaces are – and have always been – diverse spaces of encounter, exchange, and interaction.  The last quarter of a century has seen a proliferation of work exploring diversity in the countryside, with much work focussing on the experiences of minority ethnic groups in the countryside, particularly in the context of racism (Garland and Chakraborti, 2004), and a number of authors have started to develop the notion of ‘rural cosmopolitanism’, though in disparate ways (e.g. Gidwani and Sivaramakrishnan, 2003; Notar, 2008; Popke 2011).  More work is needed on other strands of identity, the sites of encountering differences, and ways in which the countryside experiences cosmopolitanism.  We particularly invite contributions that on the following themes:
•       Ethnic and religious diversity in the countryside;
•       Global mobilities and flows through rural spaces;
•       Migration and return migration as drivers of rural cosmopolitanism;
•       Rural sites of exchange and encounter;
•       Tourists as cosmopolitan agents in rural places;
•       Precarity and individual experiences of rural diversity;
•       Rural institutions and accommodating diversity;
•       Cosmopolitanism, consumption and everyday life in the countryside;
•       Cosmopolitan politics of the rural;
•       Cosmopolitanism and rural carcerality;
•       Rural cosmopolitan methodologies;
•       Rural cosmopolitanism as an ethical project;
•       Policy implications.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent to both Mike (zzp@aber.ac.uk) and Rhys (rhj@aber.ac.uk) by the 31st January 2017.

When Fidel Castro went tobogganing

News of the death of Fidel Castro has reminded me of a curious story I came across whilst carrying research for the GLOBAL-RURAL project in Newfoundland, Canada, this last summer. It was the early-1970s, and the frostiness of the Cold War was equalled only by the bitterness of the Canadian winter. One anomaly in the geopolitical map, however, was Gander Airport in Newfoundland, where flights between Cuba and the Soviet Union would stop for re-fuelling. So it was on Christmas Eve 1972 Fidel Castro found himself transiting through the small Canadian town and perhaps entranced by the winter wonderland outside (some say it was the first time he had seen snow), set off with his bodyguards to go tobogganing on the gentle slope beneath Hotel Gander, watched by bemused locals.

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Fidel Castro in Gander, Christmas 1972 (Photograph from North Atlantic Aviation Museum, photographer: Ian Blackmore)

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