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Utilisations des terres rurales

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RURAL GEOGRAPHY

DEVELOPMENTS IN RURAL GEOGRAPHY

Introduction

Since the 1970s there has been an upsurge in Rural Geography theorisation and conceptualization. There was revitalization in Rural studies. The study of Rural Geography was once regarded as something of an intellectual backwater; but during the 1970s there was revived interest in rurality to the extent that publications in Rural Geography studies outstripping those in Urban Geography. However the revitalization in Rural studies was not evenly spread throughout the world. The revitalization was strongest in UK followed by New Zealand and then the USA to an extent.

The focus on rural research centres on concerns in contemporary risk society. Issues such as global food supply, biosecurity, the control of energy resources and the development of renewable energy technologies, and responses to climate change, including the alleviation of threats from flooding, dire and drought, all cast a new focus on the use and regulation of rural space and rural commodities. However, despite these research opportunities, Rural Geography still had hurdles to cross in its practice that included issues of methodology and political engagement.

Cloke (2006) summarise in his Handbook for Rural Studies that Rural Geography moved during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s through three theoretical perspectives of rurality:

  1. Functional perspective – that sought to fix rural space through the identification of its distinctive functional characteristics.
  2. Political perspective – that sought to position the rural as the product of broader social, economic and political processes.
  3. A perspective in which rurality is understood as socially constructed, such that “the importance of the ‘rural’ lies in the fascinating world of social, cultural and moral values that have become associated with rurality, rural space and rural life". (Cloke, 2006:21).

These perspectives have merit but there biggest shortcoming is failure to address the material dimensions of the rurality that has a real impact on the experiences of people living, working and playing in Rural space.

Materialising the rural came from three directions:

  1. The first examines the material and discursive conditions associated with the geographical  context of Rural localities. However this does not suggest that such contextual attributes are characteristic functions of rural space or assigning causality to the state of being rural.
  2. The second attempt at materialisation comes from efforts to statistically define rurality and categorise rural space returning to a functional perspective. This is in part due to developments in spatial analysis, e.g. the use of GIS to study in detail small places and this is also in part due to the development of new “politics of rural" that seeks to fix rural space and “objectively” evaluate rural needs. This has been criticised as it does not offer room for relevant research needed for the growth of Rural Geography.
  3. The third approach to re-materialising the rural conceptualized the rural as a hybrid and networked space. Cloke (2006) has observed that there are at least two conceptual pathways that have been marked out of this approach:

  1. One pathway presents rural space as a socially produced set manifolds in which imaginative material and practised ruralities are intrinsically and dynamically entwined and inscribed in the totality of the rural.
  2. The second emphasises the rural as a multifaceted and co-constructed space, “defined by networks in which heterogeneous entities are aligned in a variety of ways ... [that] give rise to slightly different countryside: there is no single vintage point from which the panoply of rural or countryside relations can be seen”. (Murdoch, 2003:274).

It is agreed that these developing perspectives on the hybrid and networked rural offer prospects of recovering the material and social dimensions of rurality, complimenting the cultural narratives that have dominated in the past.

Rural Explained

The definition of rural seem to be regional rather than universal. The debate centres on whether “rural" is a geographical concept, a location with identifiable boundaries on a map, or whether it is a social representation, a community of interest, a culture and a way of life.

In the USA the term is used by the Census Bureau to classify people who live in places with small population or unincorporated areas with population density less than 1 000 persons per square mile. The Census Bureau to begin with defines urban areas  (UAs) as comprising one or more central plan as and the adjacent densely settled surrounding area, with a population density exceeding 1 000 persons per square mile. There are areas outside of the urban areas which are incorporated places or Census Designated Places (CDP) with at least 2 500 inhabitants. All territories populations and housing units that the Census Bureau does not classify as urban are classified as rural. For example , a rural place is any unincorporated place or CPD with fewer than 2 500 inhabitants that are located outside of a UA and is divided  into farm and non-farm classifications. Farm population under current census definition includes people living in rural areas on properties of one acre of land or more, where USD1 000.00 or more of agricultural products were sold (or would have been sold) in the past 12 months.

In Canada, the Ministry of Industry (2002) in Statistics Canada Agricultural Division published a paper that analysed the various definitions of ‘rural’ that are used.  The paper focused on the geographical classification of ‘rural’ but asked a number of questions. (1) Is rural a geographic form distinct from urban that can be identified using measures such as population size or population density in a given area? (2) Is rural-urban a continuum defined by functional relationships between people and space? (3) To what extent is the regional context determining factor when rural boundaries are drawn? The following are the results of the analysis.

The definitions that were analysed all except one are constructed using territorial units from hierarchy of census geography. The smallest of these units or building blocks is the group of households, that is enumerated by one census enumerated  - an enumeration area (EA). EAs may be grouped into designated places (DPLS) which are small unincorporated communities or census sub-divisions (CSDs), which are incorporated towns and municipalities. Cars may be grouped into census consolidated sub-divisions (CCSs). In general, a CCS combines a smaller, more urban CSD to provide a broader context for a town or municipality. One important larger building block is the Census division (CCD). As the building blocks become larger, the geographical scale expands from neighbourhood to community to region.

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