Policy engagement and critical rural geographies

Michael Woods, Graham Gardner

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

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This paper discusses the relationship between engagement with rural policy-makers and the development and maintenance of critical rural geographies. Recent debates on geography and public policy suggest that rural geographers seeking to engage with public policy face a stark choice between critical activism outside formal policy-making arenas or uncritical incorporation by the state. We argue, in contrast, that the unsettled hinterland of policy research permits rural geographers to steer a middle route that can produce both policy and academic outcomes whilst maintaining critical integrity, but that this route requires the careful negotiation of complex political relations and ethical issues. The paper draws on our experience of undertaking contract research for the Welsh Assembly Government and Defra on parish, town and community councils. We emphasise the importance of negotiation and compromise between academic researchers, clients and stakeholders, the mediating role played by the ‘evidence base’, and the opportunities and pitfalls represented by the internal differentiation of the state. The paper concludes by outlining a tentative model of critical policy engagement for rural geography.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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