Politically middle-ground ruralities and geographies of discontent

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This paper investigates how processes of peripheralization and exploitation in two rural case studies affect how residents engage with politics formally and informally at different scales. Academic and public interest in rural peripheries, sometimes described as ‘left-behind’ has increased in recent years, often linked to ‘geographies of discontent’ and populist politics. In an era of polarising politics across the world, it is important to understand how people engage with politics at local, regional, national and global scales. The data combines a range of qualitative methods, including interviews, focus groups and ethnography. The case studies, Llanidloes in Wales, UK and Åsele in Northern Sweden, display largely liberal/social-democratic middle-ground voting in formal politics despite the sense of marginalisation and exploitation held by participants. Perceptions of politics and political policy as urban and the lack of differing ideological visions among political parties leave rural residents with little belief that they can have an impact on national or regional political trajectories. Longstanding experience of political marginalisation and resource exploitation enhance the sense of powerlessness in the face of national politics. However, engagement with hyperlocal village/hamlet-level, and particular national issues offer some residents the opportunity to feel hopeful about the future. Building positive rural futures requires different modes of funding local government and a recognition of the specific rural conditions experienced in the case study areas. This work allows us to understand how political disengagement resulting from experiences of marginalisation and exploitation may lead places towards middle-ground rather than polarised politics. In addition, including two distinct national contexts with very different discourses on rurality, gives clues towards potential similarities to look for in other rural European contexts.
Period13 Jun 2024
Event titleRSA Annual Conference 2024: Global Challenges, Regional Collaboration and the Role of Places
Event typeConference
LocationFlorence, ItalyShow on map