14 SES 01 C JS, Rural Schools, Communities and Cultures
Joint Paper Session NW 14 and NW19
The research on rural youth and issues related to place and identity in Nordic contexts, and on rural education more generally (e.g. Hargreaves et al, 2009), is sparse. These issues are in focus in the project “Rural youth – education, place and participation”. The project was designed to develop an understanding of youth, their participation and agency in rural contexts. It asks what it is that distinguishes and unites young people’s social inclusion and participation in various rural (and urban) schools and how schools in different places address young people’s opportunities to work and social inclusion.
Drawing on data from the project, this paper explores how young people in a sparsely populated rural area in Northern Sweden talk about their lives, themselves and about the future: What are the relationships between place, mobility and identity when boys and girls in this rural area talk about participation in school and in their local community, and how can these relationships be understood?
Central for the analysis is geographical theorizing of identification with place, and the understanding of place as relational and constructed. Widely spread theories in geography point to the continued importance of attachment to place in shaping our identities (Casey, 1993). People have bonds to the outside world and identity is understood to be created through the body’s interactions with place. This has existential dimension. To exist implies being in a place, as described by Casey: ”[…] to be is to be in a place. There is no being except being in a place.” (Ibid: 313).
Within this way of addressing the issue of identity – as closely related to place – lies an understanding that the very idea of “place” is a social construct (Massey, 1984; 1995). A place is always interpreted, narrated, perceived, felt, understood and communicated in relation to other urban and/or rural places, but also continuously constructed through socio-spatial and material practices, including various identities and contemporary/historical relations and conflicts. When discussing the nature of identity in late-modern times, we also need to recognize the importance of mobility. Sociologists such as Giddens and Bauman have claimed that we are moving away from rooted identities based on place and towards hubrid and flexible forms of identity (Giddens 1991; Bauman 1991, 2001). To fully understand the process of identity construction we need to recognize both place and mobility. As argued by Easthope (2009), the concept of identity cannot be fully understood without reference to the dialectic of place and mobility.
Casey, E. (1993) Getting Back Into Place. Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Easthope, H. (2009) Fixed Identities in a mobile world? The relationship between mobility, place, and identity, Identities, 16:1, 61-82, DOI:10.1080/10702890802605810 Hargreaves, L, Kvalsund, R & Galdon, M. (2009). Reviews of research on rural schools and their communities in British and Nordic countries: Analytical perspectives and cultural meaning, International Journal of Educational Research, 48(2), 80-88. Jeffrey, B., & Troman, G. (2004). Time for ethnography. British Educational Research Journal, 30(4), 535-548. Massey, D. (1994). Space, place and gender. Cambridge: Polity press. Massey, D. (1995) The Conceptualization of Place. In A Place in the World?: Places,Cultures and Globalization. Doreen Massey and Pat Jess, eds. Oxford, UK: Oxford, University Press. Rosvall, P.-Å. (2015). ‘Lad’ research, the reproduction of stereotypes? Ethnographic dilemmas when researching boys from working-class backgrounds. Ethnography and Education, 10(2), 215-229. doi:10.1080/17457823.2015.1016054 Ungdomsstyrelsen (2009) Fokus 10. En analys av ungas inflytande. Stockholm.
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