Reassessing rural communities and social relations in turbulent times

Conveners: Prof. Sarah Neal (University of Sheffield):
Dr Faye Shortland (University of Sheffield):
Dr Anna Gawlewicz (University of Glasgow):
Dr Jesse Heley (Aberystwyth University):
Rhys Dafydd Jones (Aberystwyth University):


The last two decades have been marked by what has been called an era of permacrisis and ‘catastrophic times’. The lived experiences and processes associated with the different facets of permacrisis pose significant questions around social cohesion and social futures for a range of groups, communities and localities. There are challenges for maintaining senses of connection, situated shared lives and practices of solidarity when social polarisation appears so prominent. While many of these issues – as well as their potential remedies, such as social cohesion, anchoring, conviviality, and ‘good encounters’ – have been discussed in metropolitan settings, less attention has been paid to rural settings. Here the countryside is often presented as a sanitised, problem free space; as more conservative and less diverse. In this session, we will explore how rural populations in different countryside contexts are embedded in and subject to permacrisis, the ’culture wars’ and wider socio-political change. We invite empirical, theoretical, and methodological contributions engaging with the challenges as well as opportunities that diverse rural communities (inclusive of migrant and minoritised populations) face in turbulent times.

Possible topics might include:

– Migration, difference, living together/conviviality in rural settings

– Brexit and the countryside

– Rural poverty, social division and gentrification

– Rural racisms, discriminations, and intersectional social exclusion

– Everyday rural social life, strategies of belonging and interactive practices

– Decolonising the countryside

– Alternative rural futures

– Sanctuary movements, activism and radical politics in rural areas

– Nature, rural materialities and social dis/connections

– New methodological approaches to researching rural cohesion

Proposed session format: in-person paper sessions with 15-minute papers and discussion.

Key contact: Rhys Dafydd Jones (