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  • Author: René Brauer x
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Human Geography and the hinterland: The case of Torsten Hägerstrand’s ‘belated’ recognition

Abstract

Seeing Human Geography as a nexus of temporally oscillating concepts, this paper investigates the dissemination of scientific ideas with a focus on extra-scientific factors. While scientific progress is usually evaluated in terms of intellectual achievement of the individual researcher, geographers tend to forget about the external factors that tacitly yet critically contribute to knowledge production. While these externalities are well-documented in the natural sciences, social sciences have not yet seen comparable scrutiny. Using Torsten Hägerstrand’s rise to prominence as a concrete example, we explore this perspective in a social-science case – Human Geography. Applying an STS (Science and Technology Studies) approach, we depart from a model of science as socially-materially contingent, with special focus on three extra-scientific factors: community norms, materiality and the political climate. These factors are all important in order for knowledge to be disseminated into the hinterland of Human Geography. We conclude it is these types of conditions that in practice escape the relativism of representation.

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Quality of life in rural areas: A topic for the Rural Development policy?

Abstract

Contemporary transformations of rural areas involve changes in land uses, economic perspectives, connectivity, livelihoods, but also in lifestyles, whereupon a traditional view of ‘the rural’ and, consequently, of ‘rural development’ no longer holds. Accordingly, EU’s 2007-2013 Rural Development policy (RDP) is one framework to incorporate aspects labelled as quality of life (QOL) alongside traditional rural tenets. With a new rendition of the RDP underway, this paper scopes the content and extent of the expired RDP regarding its incorporation of QOL, in order to better identify considerations for future policy making. Using novel methodology called topic modelling, a series of latent semantic structures within the RDP could be unravelled and re-interpreted via a dual categorization system based on RDP’s own view on QOL, and on definitions provided by independent research. Corroborated by other audits, the findings indicate a thematic overemphasis on agriculture, with the focus on QOL being largely insignificant. Such results point to a rationale different than the assumed one, at the same time reinforcing an outdated view of rurality in the face of the ostensibly fundamental turn towards viewing rural areas in a wider, more humanistic, perspective. This unexpected issue of underrepresentation is next addressed through three possible drivers: conceptual (lingering productionist view of the rural), ideological (capitalist prerogative preventing non-pecuniary values from entering policy) and material (institutional lock-ins incapable of accommodating significant deviations from an agricultural focus). The paper ends with a critical discussion and some reflections on the broader concept of rurality.

Open access
Performing rurality. But who?

Abstract

Reflective inquiries to better understand ‘the rural’ have tried to embed rural research within the notion of performativity. Performativity assumes that the capacity of language is not simply to communicate but also to consummate action, whereupon citational uses of concepts produce a series of material effects. Of late, this philosophical shift has also implicated geographers as active agents in producing, reproducing and performing rurality. This paper provides a critical evaluation of what this new insistence really means for the production of geographical knowledge. Using framework analysis as a method, the paper scrutinizes several reportedly influential papers on the topic of rural performativity. Our findings reveal that, while indeed reflexive on issues of academic integrity, methodology and ethics, performances of rurality are continuedly placed ‘out there’ amongst ‘rural people’, i.e. in a priori defined and often stereotypically understood contexts, either by way of ‘spatial delimitation’ or ‘activity delimitation’. Effectively, such testimonies provide a truncated state of fidelity, where performance- oriented reflexivity is seconded by contradictory empirics of uneven value and with few commonalities. We conclude that by turning towards performativity as an allegedly more helpful way of obtaining rural coherence, we at the same time overlook our own role in keeping ‘rural theory’ alive.

Open access
Landscapes with different logics: A physicalistic approach to semantic conflicts in spatial planning

Abstract

This paper deals with the ways of categorising landscapes as ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ using a physicalist approach, where these terms have special meaning. The aim of this paper is to elaborate on the question whether such a division is still meaningful with regard to anthropogenic landscapes, not least in spatial planning. The concerns raised in this paper depart from the increasingly complicated structure of geographical space, including that of anthropogenic landscapes. Our standpoint is illustrated using cases of landscape ambiguities from Poland, Germany, Romania and Greece. Leaning on frameworks of physicalist (mechanicistic) theory, this paper suggests an explanation to the outlined semantic conflicts. This is done by pointing to the relationality between the impact of centripetal and centrifugal forces, the specifics of socio-economic development, as well as the varying landscape forms that emerge from the differences within that development.

Open access