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Session themes

Abstracts are welcome on any topic of relevance to rural sociologists although proposals that address the theme of rural sustainability in the urban century are encouraged.

Abstracts must be submitted to one of the sub-themes listed below – Rural identities, Rural transitions, Agrifood transitions, Environments, Policy and governance, and Innovations in rural research.

Submitting authors should indicate whether they wish to be considered for one of the named sessions within each sub-theme or for an open session within the sub-themes.

The Program Committee reserves the right to transfer abstracts from the nominated session to any other session.

The Program Committee also reserves the right to reject any abstract that fails to establish its relevance to rural sociology or which fails to meet acceptable standards of quality.


Rural identities

Named sessions:

  1. (Re)Assembling the rural: multiplicity, indeterminacy and sustainability

    In this session we will consider new and ongoing processes of assemblage in rural areas. Assemblage thinking has gained prominence in social science, drawing variously on theoretical influences from Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, Haraway and Latour, but sharing an emphasis on emergence, multiplicity and indeterminacy. Assemblage concepts identify entities as heterogeneous and evolving, embodying the ongoing coexistence of diverse power arrangements, emphasising contextual specificity and the history of change processes. They examine questions of transformation, focusing on how material entities and social formations are brought into being through the enrolment and arrangement of diverse components, and given shape and meaning through processes of ‘territorialisation’ and ‘coding’. Critically, assemblages are contingent and dynamic, and components can be (re-)assembled into new or different assemblages. To date, variants of assemblage thinking have been applied in rural research to analysis of issues including agri-environmental policies, biological economies, biosecurity, globalisation, land investment and trade, among others. This session aims to bring these applications into dialogue and to explore the scope for the further expansion of assemblage approaches in rural studies to understand sustainability in the urban century. We are particularly interested in insights from assemblage perspectives into the emergence of new social, economic and environmental formations in the countryside, including the recombination of existing entities into new arrangements (e.g. the integration of farming practices into tourist experiences); the co-functioning of human and non-human actants and distributed agency; connectivities between rural and urban, and global and local; knowledge construction and policy transfer; farms and agricultural systems as assemblages; and the mobilisation of new assemblages for sustainable rural futures. We invite abstracts that reflect on and open a critical discussion around new assemblages in rural communities, industries, environments and territories, consider methodological questions, and/or illustrate arguments and possibilities with empirical examples from any field of rural studies.
  2. Rural cultural renaissance in the new era of globalization and urbanization
    The village is the ecological wetland that gestates the culture creative production gene, and the village culture is the important part of the human civilization ecology system. In the 21st century, with the large-scale evolution of globalization and urbanization, the rural cultural community is faced with the problems of deconstruction and modern existence. In this context, how to revive the rural culture, how to re-shape the endogenous power of the rural development, how to re-construct the cultural identity of the rural people ,so as to realize the sustainable development of the countryside under the city century, are the topic of the times which needs a lot of attention nowadays. This session will focus on the above issues, and we sincerely welcome experts and scholars from the field of rural sociology or who are interested to rural development to express your views .Let’s contribute to the sustainable development of rural areas together!
  3. ‘Authentic rurality’ in times of growing populism and nationalism
    Throughout modernity, the rural has been perceived as alternative to the urban, both in space and in time. The authenticity of rural life has been sacralised in social and political narratives by contrast to the perceived alienation of urban life. The search for authenticity has been underlying rural tourism demands and consumptions, amenity migration, place branding, policy agendas, the perception of the rural as a refuge in times of crises, amnong other recent phenomena.In this session we aim to discuss the policies, politics and narratives of authenticity, simultaneously examine the consequences for rural actors and communities of the contemporary desire for the authentic. There is a growing trend of nationalism in Europe and United States in the last few years. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the performance of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, the appointment of the populist Austrian chancellor, the election of populist government in Italy and the general increase in the popularity of populist and nationalist parties across the western societies, suggest that we are entering in era of radical political change. Populist figures have been invoking the rural-urban split to glorify the conservative – “authentic” elements of rurality and oppose them to the ‘liberal cities’. The session invites theoretical and empirical contributions, from different disciplines, approaches and cases, that deal, among other, with the following topics:− How is ‘authentic rurality’ produced?− How is the authenticity sold, promoted and reproduced?− What public policies are aimed at preserving what is considered the authentic rural?− What are the strategies of the politics of authenticity and what are its consequences?− How the populist-invoked imaged of ‘authentic rurality‘ constructed and how does it compare to the on-the-ground rurality?− What are the connections between the emergence of populism, nationalism, rural development and the rural-urban liaison?
  4. ‘Locals’, ‘newcomers’ and relations of belonging in the rural Global North
    Restructured global relations of labour, capital, trade and investment, and transforming mobilities, have seen the rapid growth of international migrant labour across rural spaces of the Global North from diverse areas of the Global South, notably nations of the Pacific, Asia and Africa (Argent 2011). In Australia, for example, labour relations, humanitarian programs, internal policies, visa categories and mobility desires have led to new futures for rural communities (Hugo 2014). In response to these rural mobilities, a growing body of scholarship has focused on rural intercultural relationships in the Global North. A key theme among this work has been to analyse place-making among in rural communities comprised of high numbers of humanitarian settlers and migrants, and to examine how ‘locals’ and those who are newly arriving, staying or settling, have responded to these rural transformations, drawing attention to sources of solidarities, tensions and racisms within such contexts.Building on this conversation, this session calls for papers which interrogate the identities ‘local’ and ‘newcomer’, and/or which are in the process of drawing out complexities in the relationships between these two groups. For example, how are both categories racialised, classed and gendered, and informed by genealogies of place in specific rural contexts? In what ways are present day ‘local’ and ‘newcomer’ identities informed by complex racial and economic histories in settler colonial states? Do these concepts help or hinder us to articulate particular social challenges faced, for example, by itinerant workers in the horticultural industry, or by humanitarian refugees? Papers may be empirically grounded or theoretical works-in-progress.
  5. Un/Recoupling migrant labour and family farming: Im/mobilities, precariousness and resilience in rural areas
    This session aims at uncovering the multitude of realities found in the intersection between (im)migrant labour and family farming, as two distinct socioeconomic features in rural areas. Rural areas, far from being isolated locales, could be seen as cosmopolitan spaces upon whose fabric a number of socioeconomic processes impact significantly. Today, we are much more willing to look at the re-territorialisation of rural places and the creation of translocal rural spaces. A ‘metamorphosis of the world’ (U.Beck) is taking place at two different levels: the framing of issues that are increasingly becoming globalised and the practice/acting of individuals that are becoming cosmopolitan.Both migrant labour (mobilities), whether permanent, seasonal, transnational, etc. and family farming (immobilities) are co-producers of globalised agriculture with the assistance of the states, market forces and international social actors. Precariousness (together with precarity and precarious conditions) emerges as a major attribute of migrant labour that safeguards and enables intensive agricultural production systems to dominate global agriculture. Precarious migrant labourers disengage from family farming to the extent that the latter’s main objective is to become competitive and globalised. Consequently, the global transformation of agriculture may result to less sustainable rural areas. Despite that migrant labour is highlighted as a transformative force of family-based small-scale agriculture to intensive agricultural production systems, at the same time it seems to undermine the resilience and sustainability of rural areas.This session seeks to attract papers from various parts of the world (e.g. Europe, South East Asia, the US, etc.) that address the attributes and dynamics of migrant labour and its linkages to family farming within a rapidly globalising system of agricultural production. In addition, papers illustrating cases in which migrant labour enables family farming, by increasing the resilience and sustainability of (certain) rural areas are also welcome.
  6. Youth and food sustainability
    There are three issues concerning the relationship between youth and agriculture sector, namely high global youth unemployment, food security, and an ageing agricultural population. Youth unemployment has been on the agenda of International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1935 and one of the Sustainable Development Goals’ targets was to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all ” (United Nations, 2015). Irrespective of location, unemployment for young people is expected to be around three times higher than their older counterparts. The second issue is concerning food security. There are now concerns over the availability of sufficient food to feed the growing population and currently one billion people are considered food insecure. The final issue is on the generational problem in agriculture where farming is increasingly becoming synonymous with the older generation. Based on a survey on rural demographics in 2010, the average age of farmers globally is around 55 to 65 years old. Prima facie, the solution to these three problems may seem simple: encourage young people to be involved in agriculture sector. It will provide employment to the youth, ensure food security through increased production, and farming will pass from one generation to the next. However, policies often concentrate only on the farm sector and production side i.e. youth as farmers, and other entrepreneurial activities are often ignored. There is relatively little research on the attitudes of youth towards agriculture as a livelihood in developing and emerging economy countries. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the push and pull factors of youth involvement in agriculture by exploring their employability, besides analysing the policies that supported youth engagement. Due to the importance of sustaining food production, how young people respond to opportunities is critical in terms of food security and future employment.
  7. Urbanizing rural and Indigenous food knowledge
    As a consequence of the world obesity crises and the turn toward artisanal food, an opportunity for the re-valorization of indigenous food systems and their constituent agri-biodiversity has emerged. Urban areas have historically served as a central space of culinary integration and consolidation, but renewed interest in wild foods, ethnobotany, and orphaned crop species have encouraged public health officials, restaurateurs and individuals to seek out and consult Indigenous food knowledge and intact rural agri-food knowledge systems. The result, in a wide range of countries, has been attempts to martial historical dietary conventions to help resolve public health challenges while also stemming the loss of important food crops and culinary traditions. These efforts have included, among others, attempts to re-activate rural areas with distinct food histories and to encourage social integration with ethnic minority groups. An exciting process of (re)discovering edible wild plants or marginal food crops has been vigorously pursued in high cuisine but is now becoming more mainstream. In parallel, new risks, including cultural appropriation and commodification of local products have also emerged. Nascent attempts to re-brand many well-known indigenous foods as superfoods, has entailed a stark disembedding of these foods from their indigenous food systems and a forceful insertion into a new dietary milieu.This session seeks papers that explore and document historical or current activities related to the advancement and re-valorization of rural or Indigenous foods and food knowledge. Papers in the fields of Food Studies, Ethnobotany, Public Health, Rural Development, Gastronomy, and Agriculture are particularly welcome. Coverage of wild or marginal foods, such as sansai (Japan), ulam (maritime Southeast Asia), quelites (Latin America), etc. is also warmly encouraged. In addition, we are interested in papers addressing shifts in food culture as a consequence of rural-urban migration or contact with Indigenous people, including new imaginaries of heritage and national cuisine.

Potential topics for open sessions include:

  • Rural imaginaries and identities: narratives of community, citizenship, gender and sexuality, art, nation-building, cultural heritage and nature in the urban century.
  • Population dynamics including drivers of rural-urban migration and the shifting demography of rural spaces.
  • Community development, service provision, and the persistent gap between rural and urban health and wellbeing.
  • Urban ruralities: the contribution of agriculture, food and forestry to place-making, identity and sustainable development in the city.

Rural transitions

Named sessions:

  1. New rural economies in the 21st Century
    Rural economies and the businesses that operate within them have received increased policy attention in recent years in many OECD countries. For example, a UK House of Lords Select Committee report (published April 2019) called for a new rural economy strategy for England. In late 2018, a National Council of Rural Advisers report called for increased attention and support for Scotland’s rural economies, and this was followed up by Scottish Government commitments to set up a Rural Economy Action Group to monitor achievements against a new Rural Economy Action Plan. At the same time, there is increasing policy and research attention on the range of public goods that rural businesses can deliver, not least in terms of environment-based tourism and leisure activities. A growing body of research work (e.g. by the OECD) is exploring the changing characteristics of rural economies and their increasing diversity, and is demonstrating their substantial contribution to the regional and national economies of which they are a part. As a result it is increasingly accepted that many rural economies are not dominated by the primary sector (although that remains important in some rural places) and are able to generate their own growth, and are not dependent on neighbouring urban centres as the only engines of growth. This session calls for international abstract submissions to explore a number of key rural economy and rural business issues and, where applicable, how they contrast with urban economies and businesses. Issues to be explored include: the changing characteristics of rural businesses and their owners; the evolving constraints and opportunities that rural operating environments provide for businesses (such as improving digital connectivity, and new modes of working, such as businesses hubs); the plans and aspirations of rural business owners; and the differing support services and policy environments for rural businesses and lessons that can be learned across different rural places.
  2. Networked rural development in a Digital Age
    Networked rural development was proposed as a concept by Jonathon Murdoch some 20 years ago. He proposed that rural development consisted on both horizontal and vertical networks that managed the flow of knowledge and resources between and into rural areas. Much has changed in the intervening years and we arguably now stand on the cusp of another paradigm shift in rural development.  We have gained insights about the neo-endogenous character of contemporary rural development, yet we are only at the start of understanding the role and impact of digitisation on rural economies and rural everyday life. Technological developments such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, 5G connectivity, synthetic biology and much more have the potential to revolutionise the way we live, work and play. Rural areas risk being left behind in this 4th Industrial Revolution. This is partly due to practical issues, the remoteness and sparsity of rural areas hampers the deployment of many next generation technologies. It is also due to perceptions of rural being a place of tradition and not a place for technological innovation.  Can an updated idea of networked rural development ensure rural areas are fully integrated into the 4th Industrial Revolution? How will the character of rural areas be impacted by this? This session will explore the issues raised by networked rural development and neo-endogenous development in a digital age. Issues such as how networks can be created and maintained using digital platforms are of key interest. How can rural areas participate in wider networks of digital innovation? How can these networks ensure rural areas are not left behind, while at the same time preventing rural areas from losing their unique assets? How will digitisation impact existing rural development networks?
  3. Strategies for overcoming rural depopulation and promoting regional revitalization
    Over the past decades a shrinking population has become the normal trajectory for many rural regions as agriculture has been restructured and economic opportunities have become increasingly concentrated in metropolitan areas. Depopulation is a process, whereby the resident population is leaving the area and the population density is falling below a critical level so that any socio-economic activity is hindered by the lack of people to maintain infrastructure and basic services. The lower the proportion of the economically active population in an area, the lesser the chance of reversing the economic decline. Depopulation also leads to a neglect and ultimately to a loss of infrastructure, which in turn accelerates the out-migration from rural areas, particularly of the young and innovative people. In fact, an ageing population contributes to further abandonment of land and depopulation. For many years, maintaining and revitalizing rural areas has been a primary concern of agriculture and rural policy makers. Responding to the challenge of globalization and increased competition from other areas in the same country or from another part of the world, the actors in rural areas need to apply new strategies, based on mobilization and the interconnection of different fields and assets. An important step in developing and implementing policies is a participatory process involving all concerned actors. The process with the involvement of both government and civil society at the national, regional and local level is crucial for the success of any innovative strategy or policy approach to revitalization. With respect to rural population dynamics recently, this session welcomes submissions centered on the theme of strategies and policy interventions for overcoming rural depopulation and revitalizing local communities from Eastern and Western perspectives.
  4. Rural revitalization and coordinated development of urban and rural areas
    The strategy of rural vitalization is to address the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. Issues relating to agriculture, rural areas, and rural people are fundamental to those developing countries as they directly concern the country’s stability and the people’s wellbeing. Addressing these issues should have a central place on the work agenda of the rural revitalization policy, the strategy should have established an institutional framework and policy system, “decisive” progress shall be made, with basic modernization of agriculture and rural areas, rural areas should have strong agriculture, a beautiful countryside and well-off farmers. Hope to have a wonderful discussion on these issues on this session.
  5. New rural economics in the era of post-productivism: new farmers, new land users and rural revitalization
    Rural spaces in the global north and south are undergoing significant socio-economic transformations in the era of neoliberal globalization. However, peasant-like and small-scale farmers still account for a substantial proportion of the world population (McMichael, 2016). The idea of post-productivism has been widely employed by social scientists to capture changes in contemporary agriculture, where the focus gradually moved away from agricultural production towards demands for non-agricultural economic practices, such as ecotourism, amenities, and so on (McCarthy, 2006). At the same time, radical reforms were implemented to dismantle state support for agriculture in favor of market-oriented policies. Yet, an overemphasis on farm diversification and non-farm economic practices raises crucial questions, such as food security, decoupling of agriculture from the rural community, and so forth (Woods, 2011). Against this backdrop, we have witnessed a variety of initiatives aimed at addressing these plights. These alternative economic projects include community organic farming, ethical consumption, and rural heritage conservations, to name a few. This session encourages researchers and practitioners to address the following issues including the following:

    1. The impacts of alternative economic practices on rural society and the design of innovative food policy solutions
    2. The obstacles and opportunities of innovative farming practices?
    3. The challenges for local food transformation?
  6. Examining the role of traditional African social systems in the development of Sub-Saharan African communities
    African explorer, Sir Henry Stanley (1878) described Africa as the “dark continent” primarily due to the dark, deep, murky and impenetrable forest. Today, conventional scholars and development “experts” continue to present Africa as a dark continent riddled with political strife, corruption, ethnic conflict, poverty and famine among other problems. Seeking to challenge this notion, various African scholars have more recently proposed we view Africa as a “bright continent” due to the sustained development seen at the village level (Olopade, 2014).Despite the limited development efforts realized at the national level, many of the African communities have remained resilient in times of prolonged droughts due to existing traditional social systems/ institutions that lessen the negative effect of poor governance and failed state institutions. Examples of these social systems include the “kanju” in Nigeria, “mwambowathu” in Malawi and “ubuntu” in South Africa, which promote collective solidarity, access to bonding and linking social capital and communal development. Knowing that the majority of Sub-Saharan Africans reside in rural areas, it is important for development scholars to better understand how traditional African institutions most successfully adopt to new agricultural policies that affect for example, access to land, labor, capital, insurance (risk pooling) and social protection which promote rural livelihoods. This session, therefore, invites papers that highlight the role traditional African institutions play in rural development and/ or rural sustainability in the urban century. Possible topics include, but not limited to;

    • gender equity
    • food security / sovereignty
    • economic development
    • Environmental conservation
    • technological innovations
    • resolution of farmer/herder conflicts over resources
    • rural-urban migration
  7. Mapping rural and tribal livelihoods and quest for sustainability in the contemporary South Asian Societies
    South Asia has an area of approximately 5.221 million km. According to the United Nations, 1.6 billion inhabitants live in the region. South Asian population has a mixture of ethnic and tribal groups. They practice different religions and believe in different faiths. The tribal population are also called as the ‘tribes’ and have been noted as the ‘primitive’ or ‘savage’ and sometimes even ‘un-civilised’ groups of people. Majority of these groups of people in the South Asian region depend on agriculture as their main source of livelihoods. Contemporary societies of South Asia have witnessed plethora of issues in terms of its social, economic and political frames or discourses. The discourse on rural and tribal communities have further shown the way to mapping inherent identity questions, practices, and thus debates on sociological engagement of these social groups is necessitated.  The engagement of social groups is necessary to understand its diverse social and economic issues and dynamics of development discourses of South Asia. Further, quest for sustainability of livelihoods is an overarching phenomenon of the development agencies of the state and non-state actors. Keeping pace with the developmental challenges in the south Asian economies, there is a necessity to understand the livelihood experiences and hurdles faced by the tribal communities in the rural areas. The various sub-themes in the panel will be:

    1. Mapping the Oral histories of Tribal people, rural communities and livelihood experiences in South Asia.
    2. Indigenous art and culture; folk art, Rituals and other practices, folk music, local dance and paintings as cultural manifestations of tribal and rural communities.
    3. State laws, policies and government agencies; challenges faced by the rural and tribal communities in south Asia and role of the non-profit organizations in the rural and tribal regions.
    4. Educational and employment challenges faced by the tribal and rural population, the nature of labor practices found in the rural areas,
    5. Government plans and programs and their implementation strategies for the development of the rural and tribal population and other issues, like the SEZs (Socio-Economic Zones), their ecological impact on the tribal and rural people, impact of the mining industry in the tribal belt etc.
    Over the last two decades, Latin American agriculture has faced intense and rapid transformations that consolidated this region as a global platform for the production of commodities. The changes and effects of these processes are now deepened as a consequence of the new economic, political and cultural agendas that have been strengthened in this region. Proposed by the Latin American Association of Rural Sociology (ALASRU), this section will seek to analyze the main characteristics of the agrarian transition process in course in the rural areas of the Latin American countries. Among the topics of interest are: the regional dependence on the export of commodities, the emergence of liberal and autocratic governments; the new foreign policy guidelines and the crisis of Mercosur and Unasur; the effects of these new governments in terms of State support policies for agriculture, particularly those aimed at family farming and food security and sovereignty; the role of political coalitions linked to agribusiness; the advance of financialization and the processes of land, water and green grabbing; the socio-environmental conflicts derived from the agrarian development projects; movements of resistance and existence, including agroecology and new models of production and food consumption, and alternatives against the marginalization of family farmers, peasant and indigenous communities. This session will receive papers in Spanish or English, and authors from any continent, provided that it has as its universe of interest focusing on Latin American agriculture and rural areas.

Potential topics for open sessions include:

  • New rural economies? Opportunities and threats arising from mining and other extractive industries, urbanization, technological disruption and demand for ecosystem services.
  • Spatial dispossessions/re-possessions: resource appropriation and struggles over property rights among Indigenous and peasant resource users, family farmers and others.

Agrifood transitions

Named sessions:

  1. Financialisation, food security and rural sustainability
    There is growing evidence that the world’s food and farming sectors are becoming increasingly ‘financialised’. Financial-sector products (such as derivatives, commodity index funds, and credit default swaps) and financial-sector entities (including hedge funds, pension funds and private equity firms) are influencing, among other things, the ownership of farmlands, the management of those lands, the securitisation of farm-based products, and price movements in food commodities. For many in the business sector, and for many governments, such financialisation is considered unequivocally desirable. It is seen to inject new, and much needed, capital into agriculture and food supply chains. It is viewed as a necessary stimulus for future productivity gains. It is also considered to be an essential catalyst for agricultural modernisation and community development, particularly in the developing world. In contrast, social science-based research has revealed that financialisation has: Been an important component in ‘land grabbing’, in many instances undermining local food self-sufficiency; encouraged speculation in farm commodities, resulting in food price volatility; delivered greater power to food retailers in global food chains; encouraged more capital-intensive – and environmentally destructive – farming; concentrated land into fewer hands; and, fostered conflict and protest over land and resource use in rural communities. The main questions that this session seeks to address are: First, what impacts has financialisation had upon local and global food security? Second, in what ways has it influenced the sustainability of rural communities? Third, is financialisation’s growing presence positive, negative, or neutral in relation to environmental sustainability? And fourth, how have rural communities accommodated or resisted financialisation? Presentations that engage with cultural, moral and ethical issues of financialisation are welcome.
  2. Neoliberal restructuring of the agri-food system in Turkey: What went Wrong?
    Turkey has been one of the exceptional cases in Eastern Mediterranean region in terms of food self-sufficiency and state subsidized strong agricultural economy until late 1970s. Since 1980s, a series of neo-liberal economic reforms resulted in rapid global integration paralleled with declining role of agriculture in the economy. The neo-liberal policies brought in deregulation, privatization of state economic enterprises, removal of tariff barriers, and dismantling of support programs for agricultural producers. Since early 2000s, further changes transformed the agri-food system in Turkey creating new patterns of specialization and concentration and significant changes in rural structures. During this period, we observed depeasantization and further decline in rural populations. Rural population of Turkey declined from 56.2 % in 1980 to 35.3 % in 2000 and declined further to 25.3% by 2017. One of the outcomes of this transformation was food price inflation. Governments responded rising food prices by lowering customs barriers to bring in imports, which resulted in further reductions in local production.  By 2019, there have been shortages of basic food staples. While some argued that consolidation in the countrywide would increase efficiency, by 2018 food insecurity has emerged to be a major concern among the most vulnerable segments of the society. In this section, we invite papers to examine impacts of the changes in agri-food policies on rural communities and food security and sovereignty in Turkey.
  3. China's fresh tropical fruit imports from Southeast Asia: Implications on rural economies
    China’s imports of fresh tropical fruits from Southeast Asia have been rising rapidly, which makes China the world’s second biggest importer of fresh fruits. In stark contrast with the Western countries’ imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from developing countries, very little is known about China’s fresh fruit imports. The existing literature clarifies how food standards—both statutory sanitary and phytosanitary measures and private standards of buyers—in the Western countries affect farmers in developing countries in terms of inclusiveness or marginalization of smallholders in the supply chain, and their prospect for production upgrading. What happens when the market is China where consumers are seemingly less concerned about food quality and safety? With improving land transportation infrastructures in the Greater Mekong sub-region, a greater portion of the fresh fruit export from Southeast Asia to China appears to be channeled by informal cross-border trade, which imposes a challenge on the research of this trade flow. Bringing together researchers who explore the fresh fruit exports from Southeast Asia to China, our panel aims to compare various country studies and deduce implications of China-centric fruit supply chains on growers. We invite papers of case studies that elucidate characteristics of growers, boundaries of firms involved and patterns of their interaction, and regulatory environments of the fruits export supply chains in Southeast Asian countries. This session will contribute to advancement in our scholarly knowledge of how different impacts the China-centric fruit supply chains have on growers in comparison with the Western country-oriented supply chains.
  4. The colonization of agri-food: corporate power under neoliberal globalization
    The concentration of capital in the hands of powerful corporations has been one of the primary characteristics of agri-food under neoliberal globalization. Through a number of techniques, including mergers and acquisitions, corporations have achieved control of virtually all segments of the agri-food sector from research, to production, to retailing. While this process is resisted, questions have been raised as to the effectiveness of these forms of resistance. In a 2018 publication, Bonanno and Wolf introduced the concept of artificial negativity that stresses the manner in which resistance is co-opted – that is “colonized”— by anti-emancipatory forces. In particular, it refers to ways in which corporations appropriate spaces and discourses that have traditionally been patrimony of the political and cultural left. Dwelling on this and related scientific debates, this session calls for empirically- and/or theoretically-based papers that address issues associated with the corporate co-optation/colonization of emancipatory spaces such as the well-being of labor, the interests of popular classes, the safeguard of the environment, and health and quality of life. Additionally, papers that discuss ways to oppose forms of corporate co-optation/colonization are welcome. Papers selected in the session will be considered for inclusion in an edited book that the session organizers plan to publish with a major international publisher.
  5. Agricultural crises, resistance and ‘alternative’ models in light of the ‘Arab revolts’
    Most interpretations of the “Arab spring” have emphasized the spontaneous nature of the 2011 popular revolts and have most often neglected their deep roots, particularly their agricultural and rural roots. In fact, few studies have integrated the agricultural and food crises into the analysis of the processes behind the uprisings. Yet, it is important to underline that the Arab revolts erupted in a general context of deteriorating living conditions and household purchasing power, aggravated by the rise in world food prices. In most countries of the region, particularly Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, the impact of food prices’ increases was all the stronger as food deficits have continued to widen and a high proportion of household expenditure is still devoted to food. Also, in several countries (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia), the uprisings were preceded and followed by numerous protest movements in rural areas, which have drawn attention to issues of agricultural development, food security and the social role of farming activities. In specific cases where democratization processes have been engaged (Tunisia, Morocco), mobilizations around access to land and resources have fostered a debate on agricultural development models, which is currently intensified by the negotiations on free trade agreements with the European Union. The opening of new spaces for expression and action has also contributed to the implementation of initiatives and projects referred to as “innovative” or referring to “alternative” development models.
  6. The wicked problem/s of farmer autonomy: re-visiting the peasant principle and struggles for autonomy
    The struggle for and over autonomy in farming is wicked – unsolvable, shifting and contestable. The philosophical and practical application of autonomy has gained new breadth and depth as scholarship utilising the concept of autonomy has resulted in multiple re-interpretations and applications in novel agricultural, farming and livelihoods contexts. What does the concept of autonomy and the peasant principle offer us now as a philosophical and practical tool?
  7. Exploring social realities in the quest for responsible digital agri-‘cultures’
    The race toward agriculture 4.0 has begun – with nations and corporations clamouring to claim their market share in the agtech startup space – both within nation-states and across traditional sovereign borders. This session proposal will provide space to question the institutional logics of the international digitalisation of agricultural innovation systems. We invite colleagues to draw on rural sociology and agricultural social science to ground respective empirical insights. For example, how do we anticipate the implications of the automation of agricultural supply chain decision-making in restructuring the agri-food sector – what happens to rural communities when farms become farmerless? How do we be inclusive of diverse viewpoints in the design process for new agricultural technologies to maintain trust – how do we weigh up technological development and risks to agricultural stakeholders’ social licence to operate? How do we incorporate reflexivity in the evaluation of agtech platform development – how do we make the most of socio-technical investments in digital agriculture to create new rural economies while mitigating risk? How do we respond to data privacy and governance issues as agro-industrialisation takes the form of big data analytics through machine learning in the agri-food sector – what is the value of food (or data) from ‘somewhere’ in a digital future or are we just mining different agri-‘cultures’? Relevant and rigorously researched empirical and conceptual papers are invited. These papers will build on momentum from initial scholarly exploration explicitly examining the societal implications of digital agriculture and/or smart farming at the International Farming Systems Association symposium in Chania (2018) and the European Society for Rural Sociology in Trondhiem (2019). Ultimately, this special issue will build intellectual capability, provide an appropriate framework for, and practical examples of, the enactment of responsible digital agricultural futures moving forward.
  8. The Countryside in the City: rural provenance foods’ promotion and selling as ways of establishing and reinforcing new rural-urban connections
    There is a consensual recognition on the growing interest of (mainly urban) consumers in rural provenance foods as well as on the generally positive impacts these processes can induce in rural areas and in fostering new or renewed rural-urban liaisons. There is also an increasing policy support (e.g. within European Union) to the production of these foods and to their official certification that allow their preservation, promotion and a better understanding of their specific character. Food is an important part of a territory culture and identity, reflecting the biophysical specificities of the local environment, the main agricultural production, activities and traditions, the ‘savoir faire’ together with a particular vision of the world developed by local population throughout the centuries. Food may be considered, following Béssiere’ (1998) as more than just food as it places people in a particular culture and social universe. Being consumed in local contexts or, as it is increasingly the case, in urban areas, local food products may represent key elements in the promotion of the countryside. In this Session, we aim at analysing the potential and effective contribution of rural provenance food products’ promotion and selling (e.g. in specialty or regular urban stores, farmers markets in urban locations; food festivals and other events) in fostering rural-urban connections, agricultural activities and in rural areas attractiveness. The Session invites theoretical and empirical contributions that deal – from diverse perspectives and cases from different countries – among others, with the following topics:

    • What rural provenance foods are promoted and sold in urban areas and through what means and formats?
    • What aesthetic/cosmetic features are privileged in urban food specialty shops that convey meanings and images around the rural?
    • What are the roles of those products and processes in fostering rural attractiveness?
    • What are the values attributed by urban consumers to those products?
    • What impacts may have these processes in farming and in rural-urban connections?

Potential topics for open sessions include:

  • Agrarian transitions and contestations: the changing character of Indigenous, peasant and family farm livelihoods in the developing and developed worlds.
  • Commodity flows and networked spaces in the global economy.
  • Alternative food systems: short supply chains, non-commoditized production and exchange.

Environments, sustainability and justice

Named sessions:

  1. Environmental data, infrastructure and rural society
    In recent years infrastructure politics have received growing attention across disciplines, such as anthropology (Anand, Gupta, & Appel, 2018; Harvey & Knox, 2015), geography(Graham & Marvin, 2001; Graham & McFarlane, 2014), and sociology of science and technology(Bowker, 1994; Bowker & Star, 1998). Instead of treating infrastructures as mere technocratic systems, a body of literature has conceptualized infrastructural networks as socio-technical assemblages and demonstrated the political nature of infrastructure (Graham, 2010; Graham & McFarlane, 2014). Critical urban analysts have long directed attention to the entangled relationship between infrastructures and the metabolism of urban life. However, studies of infrastructures remain marginal both theoretically and empirically in rural studies. Recent literature has suggested infrastructures are precarious achievements and complex systems across spatialities. Pipes, high-speed rails, electronic transmission, and wires that support modern urban life are often buried underneath or built on the farms. The maintenance of infrastructural networks always animates passionate disputes, which revolve around material objects and environmental knowledge production. In this view, this session encourages researchers employing STS or critical political ecology to address the following questions: 

    • What are the impacts of the construction/maintenance of infrastructures on rural people’s livelihood?
    • What is the role of nonhuman actants/environmental data/expertise in shaping rural infrastructure politics
  2. Farmer and farm ontologies: Rethinking agriculture after the more-than-human turn
    Following the ‘more than human’ turn in social theory, the question of how farmers have agency turns into a question of how farmers and farms express, enact, or create agencies. This intriguing question is taking shape across different strands of rural sociology through explorations of ontology – theorising how farms are enacted in particular relations, objects and practices of farming. Ontologies scholars in rural sociology are interested in how farms and their participants can be understood as vital agents at the centre of important worlds that can either act to stabilise modernity or to disrupt taken-for-granted realities. This session seeks to draw together, for the first time, the existing body of scholarship emerging on the ontology of farmers and farms. We also invite scholars working in other social theoretical approaches; such as ANT, STS, multiplicity, assemblage, utopias, repeasantisation, and post-colonial engagements; to join discussion panels. Discussions will question how theories of farm and farmer ontologies can provide new insights into a variety of rural social concerns: how farms are enacted as real and how farms change; human-environmental entanglements and collaborations on farms; disruption of existing scientific and modernist realities of farming and science; the significance of new technical objects and relations; AI and loss of autonomy by farm decision-makers; indigenous ontologies; and how all these insights shape our understanding of alternatives to modernist farming worlds. Of particular interest to panel organizers is how a theorisation of ontologies provides potential insight into political action around food and farming. This session invites scholars from Developing and Developed World contexts with an interest in ontologies and their political consequences to join this session either through presentation of papers, or by joining a panel to discuss key intellectual dialogues that can be enabled by an engagement with ontologies.
  3. Agrifood transitions in the Anthropocene
    The greatest challenges of the 21st Century are linked to the recognition that we are now living in an new epoch – the Anthropocene. The human footprint on the planet can no longer be denied and one of the greatest human innovations – agriculture – is increasingly recognized as a leading contributor to climate change. The food, energy and financial crises of 2007-2008 triggered a re-evaluation of the sustainability of the global agrifood system. The climate impacts of the Anthropocene make it imperative that we change the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed. There is consensus that we need to feed a predicted 9 billion people by 2050, but at the same time reduce environmental externalities and inequalities, and foster more democratic food systems. Within the recent debates around the conditions of living in the Anthropocene, the problem as well as the solutions are highly contested. We invite papers that engage this problematic through studies of transitions, societal transformations, and institutional change processes around the world. Topics may include (but are not limited to): 

    • “feeding a sustainable diet”
    • “the food-fuel-fiber-water nexus”
    • “surviving the Anthropocene”
    • “intermediation and adaptation of agrifood strategies in the Anthropocene”
    • “sustainable intensification and agroecology transition pathways”
    • “agrifood SDGs in the Anthropocene”
    • “agrifood imaginaries of the Anthropocene”
    • “agrifood policies of and for the Anthropocene”
  4. Rural and Urban Food (In)Justice in Australia: convergence and divergence in the struggle for food justice
    In Australia, the struggle over food injustice in rural areas mirrors the struggles of urban communities as marginalised people lack control over agri-food systems and the social-environmental-economic hierarchy that emphasises food as a extractive commodity. Whilst Food Justice has emerged as a powerful concept to address the structural inequalities in agri-food systems , what it means to do Food Justice work in the Australian context remains opaque. This session will focus on how the ‘imperfect politics’ of food justice is practiced in both urban and rural contexts in Australia. Presenters are challenged to articulate what constitutes food justice in the uniquely Australian context and to address the question of how their ‘food justice work’ furthers justice. Presenters are encouraged to explore what can rural and urban communities learn from each other’s struggles for food justice?
  5. Food and sustainability
    This session invites papers which examine the issues of social and ecological sustainability employing food as a key window for exploration. Over the past couple of decades, there have been abundant efforts all over the world to overcome the problems inherent to existing food system, which is dependent upon fossil fuel, large agri-food corporations, and neo-liberal market system.  These efforts, ranging from agroecology to alternative food-networks to local food to community kitchens, have made changes to the way people eat and think about food. Sharing diverse alternative food experiences and theoretical implications from the cases are the main goal of this session, which would contribute to realizing sustainable food systems.
  6. Alternative food movements, dietary trends and rural consumption
    Buying, preparing, and consuming food shapes and maintains bodies, identities, material arrangements, and social relations. Cultural meaning is manifested through food and deliberate dietary choices signal identity and community as well as alterity and difference. Alternative or deliberate diets are therefore often subject to and constitutive of social judgement, whether these diets are ideologically motivated (e.g. local, slow, sustainable, halal, kosher, vegan/vegetarian), associated with health or wellbeing (e.g. gluten/dairy free, low fat, calorie restrictive, intermittent fasting, paleo), or resulting from trends or ‘fads’. A growing diversity of alternative or deliberate diets now exist within shared locales, bringing different bodies, identities and relations in ever increasing contact and potential conflict with each other and with existing food traditions. The impacts of these diets in rural development are often framed through the lens of urban consumption and reflecting urban values, identities, and material/social relations. By contrast, rural consumers’ engagement with and practice of alternative or deliberate diets, as well as their impact on social networks, local food chains, and sense of rural place and identity is not well understood. This session aims to explore the experience, socio-political valence and acceptance of alternative or deliberate diets in rural areas in general, and in particular to foster understanding of potential similarities and differences in how alternative or deliberate diets shape and are shaped by encounters with rural consumers. We welcome submissions on concrete examples of rural performance of alternative or deliberate dietary practices; the impact of rural consumption of alternative or deliberate diets on the shaping of rural identities, places and social networks; and the impacts of closer producer-consumer distance on the values, discourses, and capitals that are part of such deliberate diets.

Potential topics for open sessions include:

  • The reciprocal relationships between natural resource management and rural community economic and social development.
  • Landscape transitions including urbanization, gentrification of the peri-urban fringe, natural and cultural heritage conservation, agro-industrialization and resource extraction.
  • Climate change and opportunities to enhance both adaptive capacity and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in rural communities, industries and landscapes.

Policy and governance

Named sessions:

  1. Increasing land access for new entrants to agriculture: people, pathways, and policy
    Sustaining a cohort of new entrants is crucial to the ongoing vitality, resilience and competitiveness of the agricultural sector and rural regions (EIP AGRI, 2016). Despite broad political support for revitalizing rural economies, access to land remains the single largest barrier to new entrants to farming (Zagata et al., 2017). Financialisation of agricultural land; cultural issues surrounding inheritance, succession and retirement; dispossession and property rights struggles; and tax incentives to retain land ownership all limit land access opportunities for those who wish to enter farming, compounding parallel barriers of access to capital and skills development. Critically, this is an issue of inequality and future diversity within the rural economy, ultimately restricting the establishment of resilient systems that can meet sustainability goals. This working group invites papers that investigate innovative and alternative models to enable land access for new entrants. The working group session will focus on the following issues:

    • How are new entrants imagined and therefore produced? And what are the justice implications for dominant land access interventions for new entrants?
    • What can we learn from existing innovative models (e.g. joint venture, community ownership, farm incubators, etc.), and what impacts result in terms of land access? What are the options for new models?
    • What are the social, psychological, cultural, economic, and environmental factors that inhibit landowner engagement with these models?
    • How do issues of land access intersect with issues of gender and race?

    This working group will develop a richer understanding of landowner perceptions (i.e. regarding risk, motivations for landownership, and place attachment), in order to overcome barriers to land access for new entrants. The working group seeks abstracts that synthesize novel research on new entrant farmers (knowledge systems, identity formation, alternative food networks, farmer training) and established research on land access (powers of exclusion, dispossession, property, land use, etc.).

  2. Family Farming as a white knight toward Sustainable Development Goals? Debates in policies, movements, and sciences
    Over the last decade, the international community has given a significant relevance to family farming in the context of sustainable development. In 2011 the General Assembly of the United Nations decided to create 2014 International Year of Family Farming. This international celebration of family farming and its supportive movements resulted in the UN Decade of Family Farming (2019-2028). At the same period, the UN General Assembly passed the UN Declaration of the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas in 2018. Today family farmers appear as key players to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030 Agenda. Viewing these phenomena, some questions arise. First, beyond this wide consensus, could family farming be considered as a concept to address the current transformations in agriculture? Second, does family farming represent a single social category that share common interests and cooperate to overcome their common obstacles or do its different constituencies limit possible collective action? If the answer is the latter, on which basis can they get united and collaborate toward SDGs? Third, as we pay attention to agrarian transitions, can family farming be identified as an opposite idea of corporate farming? If we recognize the continuity from family farming to corporate farming as forms of farming, what are real threats for family farming? Then, what are the possible ways for Family farmers’ organizations to consolidate as a policy-making actor at national levels through movements and sciences? This session calls for papers that directly or indirectly address the above mentioned questions. Both theoretical and empirical papers are welcome. This session will cover definitions, typologies, statistics over family farming as well as current policies and case studies. The papers presented in the session will be considered for publications in a special issue of a referred journal.
  3. The role of extension in rural sustainability in the urban century, Australasia Pacific Extension Network
    The APEN sponsored IRSA Congress session will highlight and demonstrate:

    • The place that extension has in the field of rural sociology;
    • Who practices extension and the wide diversity of it application and methods; and
    • Identify the professional partnering opportunities through the APEN extension network.

    Extension professionals are rural sociologists who employ applied approaches to enable and facilitate change by individuals and communities. They support people getting together, learning from each other, learning by doing. Further they facilitate different perspectives, sharing ideas, building trust and creating innovation and momentum. They work with their clients to achieve real world solutions to address the at time complex challenges of the 21st century – climate change, sustainable rural livelihoods, preserving our natural resources and providing safe and nutritious food and fibre.

    Extension acts as a change agent through working with individuals and communities primarily across the agricultural supply chain, rural and regional health and education, natural resource management, economic development and in policy development and application. Extension can achieve change in environments often considered too difficult when using other approaches. Extension methods succeed more frequently against other approaches, as extension focuses on the use of individuals’ and community knowledge, skills and resources to tailor participant approaches which are appropriate. A real strength of extension is achieving sustainable change by involving and gaining a strong commitment from those participating.

  4. Collaborative monitoring and evaluation of environmental management and farm conservation measures
    Sustainable management of landscapes, the environment and natural resources depends on the involvement of land managers and the local community. State governments often make funding (incentive schemes, grants) available to support management activities for biodiversity, soil and water, either to groups or individuals. Monitoring the effects of management activities is crucial to allow an evaluation of whether or not policy interventions are successful and expenditure/investment is justified, but such monitoring and evaluation is seen as costly and currently not widespread. Nevertheless, it is a crucial component of realising adaptive management, or adaptive co-management. There are various approaches to monitoring and evaluation, ranging from experts whose time has to be budgeted into the project costs, to volunteer groups or land managers themselves undertaking monitoring. This session aims to explore the different approaches to monitoring the effects of agri-environmental schemes, environmental management and farm conservation activities. This will allow to compile good practice and lessons learned with regard to conducive conditions for effective monitoring: institutional structures, social context, mental models, funding and accountability requirements, governance arrangements, data and knowledge management.Engaging land managers in monitoring the effects of their management activities encourages buy-in to the aim of a scheme so that there is an increased chance that managers will continue beneficial activities beyond the duration of the scheme. Evidence suggests that although farmers and the public do not generally have in-depth knowledge of species, habitats or environmental measuring techniques, such ‘non-experts’ are able to generate robust data with some basic training. There is also potential to link citizen science to the monitoring of the farmed environment. Many of these approaches require careful management of expectations, relationships, communication processes and the resulting data.
  5. Agriculture Justice and Sustainable Urbanization: How could the food security for all exist?
    Sustainable Development was emerged to tackle an uneven development, which prefer to economic progress rather than human development and environmental sustainability. An old developmental paradigm has put an emphasis on economic activities within industrial and service sectors, which generates a high rate of GDP. The higher speed of urbanization and the expansion of urban settlement are not the result from simply population growth. They are, besides, driven by the image of city life, which became the ideology of success development. Therefore, this partial development process has left people in rural area, whose economics activities are mostly in agricultural sector, which is seen as a low level of GDP producer. Still, these people in agricultural sector are the food producer for all people. As the food producers are facing with precarity and land dispossession, how could food security for all be ensured? This session would like to examine the fair allocation of both benefit and burden between rural food producers and urban food consumers.  Additional, it would like to explore fair relationship within food chain, food web and food system. The effort to define ‘agriculture justice’ and its nexus with urbanization are welcome as well as its relationship with food security and other justice concept.
  6. International Experiences of Community, Communal, and Municipal Ownership of Land
    In many countries around the world, community engagement and involvement in landownership and management is well established. Critically, legal ownership (of title) is often not the defining characteristic of what can be loosely termed communal, municipal or community ownership at a global level. Reviewing indigenous land rights and communal land ownership also highlights the importance of specific rights over resources, which may be separate to ownership, and which may represent key aspects of community development and self-determination. Understanding community ownership in an international context requires consideration of governance structures for managing land and associated responsibilities (as opposed to identifying the legal holder of property rights), and the historical evolution of community-based ownership. This session invites papers that respond to the following key themes and questions:

    • Security of tenure and the degree of local control in different forms of communal and community land tenure (i.e. the intersection of local democracy with community ownership). Does championing community ownership dispose of state responsibility?
    • The role of community systems of ownership in the delivery of public benefits (including maintaining valued environments and landscapes) and sustainable rural development. What tools create capacity for communities to meet these wider public goals?
    • When asset transfer is at stake, who is considered the community? How does identity play a role in forging these claims? Are these communities of interest, or communities of place? Do funding mechanisms and eligibility requirements force communities into certain boxes? What are the implications in terms of representation or exclusion, considering rural and urban contexts?

    The session will also seek to gather learning regarding the human rights perspective on community ownership, to develop an international discourse around indigenous rights to land, and to critique the concept of ‘non-community based’ communal ownership (i.e. the threats and opportunities of institutional blending in land ownership and use).

Potential topics for open sessions include:

  • Implementation and evaluation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in rural areas.
  • Subnational leadership in climate and natural resource governance.
  • State policy and practice: procurement, trade, food security etc.

Innovation in rural research

Named sessions:

  1. Re-thinking AKIS: actants, assemblage and asymmetries in contemporary agricultural knowledge
    The landscapes of agricultural advice have substantially altered since Rolings et al. developed the concept of Agricultural Knowledge and Information systems (AKIS): farmers are increasingly recognised as sources of innovation, there has been widespread privatisation of advisory services, leading to fragmentation and new businesses entering the sector (ranging from local consultancies to transnational companies). These changes have posed new challenges for research, policy and practice.In policy and research, the 2010s have seen the AKIS concept resurrected and uncritically reworded ‘innovation systems’, addressing a broader range of actors and actants, with complex, uncertain and uneven outcomes. Contemporary AKIS draws attention to the diversity of types and sources of knowledge in agriculture: disciplinary and interdisciplinary academic knowledge, evidence from experiments and applied research, farmers’ local and lay knowledge, and knowledge carried by emerging stakeholder groups in agricultural debates (consumers’ groups, environmental associations, etc) but also actors developing technologies and services outside of agriculture (e.g. ICT companies, accounting firms, legal offices).On the practice side, the digital revolution has the increased role of ICT as a tool and expectation of advisors and farmers (e.g. decision support tools, knowledge platforms, Facebook, social networks). The growing diversity of farm structures and businesses that manage European farms, characterised by an increase in farm size, a growing share of farm employees in agricultural labour, a role for collaborative forms of farming, and problematic issues surrounding gender and generational renewal are growing. Concerning linking research and practice, there are still substantial gaps between findings from research, the innovations developed on farms, and knowledge needs of farmers and other industry members. There is an urgent need for new, transdisciplinary arenas where researchers and practitioners learn to work jointly on the challenges facing the agricultural sector. In this session we welcome papers on this range of issues.
  2. Visualising, virtualisation and visceral research: new directions in rural research
    Digital technologies and visual research methods are opening up new ways of imagining and engaging with the social world. At the same time, there is a growing movement within the social sciences towards more ‘viscerally aware’ research: research that relates to bodily, emotional and affective engagement with the natural and discursive environment, focused on understanding how environments are experienced (e.g. taste, touch, sight, smell).  Immersive methods enable researchers to study how different cohorts experience and make sense of their environments.  Computational advances have led to increases in scale with ‘big’ and real-time data making them more available at an ever decreasing cost. Cross disciplinary methodologies e.g. qualitative and quantitative, visceral methods and digital technologies are contributing to developments in theoretical thinking and practice in social sciences. The deployment of creative methodologies is further shaping transdisciplinary research, redefining the roles of ‘researcher’ and ‘researched’. There is a need for social research perspectives to understand how to ground innovative technologies, visceral conceptions and computer-aided approaches in robust methodologies and sound social theories. We invite abstracts that reflect on and open a critical discussion around emergent technologies and visceral methods in social research, particularly:

    • The potential and methodological challenges of visual methods and digital technologies for studying contemporary issues and practising critical analysis in social research.
    • Deploying visual, visceral and digitalised methods and their effect on the ways in which the environment is experienced and interpreted.
    • The ethics of visual and digital methods (e.g. who consents? whose data?)
    • The uses of digital public engagement and collaborative tools in providing shared platforms for local knowledge exchanges or facilitating discussions around cultural values in decision making.
    • Human and non-human participants as effective co-constructers of research
    • Big data, real-time data, computational content analysis
    • Use of visualization technologies to increase the access to innovation, education and training
  3. Visual methods in transdisciplinary research partnerships: images of/for urban mobilizations and food system transformations
    Images are central to social movement mobilizations. From video interviews during protests that articulate collective demands, to logos that build collective identities, to mass representation of collective action in photos shared on social media, social movements (including agri-food movements) are increasingly visual. Visual sociology, defined as the combination of social science methods with imagery (photos, videos and graphics) in answering sociological research questions, is an innovative approach to food and social movement studies, especially in the context of transdisciplinary research partnerships involving reciprocal relationships with community partners and diverse stakeholders. Our mini-conference (with a half-day graduate student workshop) on Visual Methods in Transdisciplinary Research Partnerships will bring together diverse visual scholars working in the area of the sociology of food and agriculture to explore the role and facilitate the use of visuals in community-engaged research, with particular emphasis on the role of visuals for food movements across the urban/rural divide. Our mini-conference (with graduate student workshop) will engage with questions such as:

    • What are transdisciplinary partnerships, why are they important, and how are they created and maintained?
    • Where do images appear along the phases of the transdisciplinary research process?
    • What are some case study examples that demonstrate methodological advances offered through transdisciplinary visual research?
    • What are the different sources of images in transdisciplinary research partnerships (produced solely by research participants or researchers, to images produced by participants with some facilitation by researchers, to research-participant collaboration in image production) and what are the visual methodologies across social science disciplines that can be used for each (such as photovoice, ethno-photography, visual ethnographies, visual elicitation and participatory video, and other arts-based methods)?
    • What are key considerations for participant/research/visual artist collaboration for enhanced research partnerships and outputs of value to diverse stakeholders?
    • How have images been used successfully in dialogues between different knowledge systems?
    • As transdisciplinary projects and networks are well-positioned in linking urban and rural spaces for food system change — and visuals can further facilitate bringing rural and urban realities together — how in particular do/can images play a role in facilitating urban mobilization in food movements?

    The use of transdisciplinary visual sociological methods is especially relevant in the context of globally-changing policy environments that attempt to de-mobilize food movement actors, further necessitating collaborative and movement-relevant knowledge creation. As such, discussions around diverse knowledges, types of images, and processes of image production and dissemination will raise possibilities for advancing shared community-researcher goals in understanding and advancing collaborative and inclusive approaches to food system transformation.

    We welcome a diversity of abstract submissions of 300 words or less on any of these or related topics of interest to visual and social movement scholars from:

    • Community members or community-based scholars working on transdisciplinary research projects with emphasis on a visual component (photos, videos or other graphics) to give a talk during the morning panel sessions (preference given to abstracts with a food movement studies focus).
    • Graduate students using or considering transdisciplinary visual methods for participation in the Graduate Student Workshop.

Potential topics for open sessions include:

  • Participatory research, knowledge relations, and innovation in rural research and education.