Situating spatial justice in counter-urban lifestyle mobilities: Relational rural theory in a time of crisis

Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins, Marie Mahon, Maura Farrell, Rhys Dafydd Jones

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The COVID-19 pandemic has renewed the rural idyll, as urban-dwellers seek greener, safer spaces. If the counter-urban trend appears for novel reasons, it does so along lifestyle mobilities' well-worn paths. These paths often depend upon spatial inequalities. Yet, despite awareness that inequalities undergird mobilities, spatial inequalities have remained under-theorized in the lifestyle mobilities literature. This article remedies the gap through the concept of spatial justice. Initially asserting the 'right to' urban space, spatial justice has been recently re-thought at a regional scale, and is an emerging interpretation of rural marginalization and redress. As a normative concept, however, spatial justice risks simplistically measuring the distribution and presuming sedentarism. By applying spatial justice to lifestyle mobilities pre-pandemic and looking ahead to future shifts, we offer a nuanced, relational perspective on the theory and the field. Through qualitative case studies from rural and peripheral regions in Wales and Ireland, we show how inequalities and mobilities are complex and inter-related, with significant implications for regional sustainability, cohesion and identity. As the discourse of being 'all in this together' has rapidly unravelled, we argue that theorizing spatial inequalities is an urgent task for futures beyond recovery - and that lifestyle mobilities are deeply implicated.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalGeografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Ireland
  • Spatial justice
  • Wales
  • lifestyle migration
  • ‘less-popular’ regions


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