Accepted Paper:

"Even our village is part of Europe": rural lives on Europe's eastern fringe  

Author:

Laura Assmuth (University of Eastern Finland)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses transformation processes of peripheral rural communities in Finland, Estonia, Russia and Ukraine. How do people who live in fringe areas far from political and economical centres experience the changes generated by the end of socialism and/or participation in EU institutions?

Paper long abstract:

The paper presents a comparative study of transformation processes of peripheral rural communities in four European countries: Finland, Estonia, Russia and Ukraine. Fieldwork is conducted in villages on both sides of the European Union eastern border. We purposefully take a grass-roots view of the complex processes of globalisation by asking: how do people who live in rural fringe areas, far from political and economical centres, experience the huge changes in their lives brought about either by the end of socialism or participation in EU institutions and policies, or both? We question the validity of a rigid division between "countries-in-transition" and "Western countries" by comparing localities across this divide, on the thematic grounds of relationship to the European Union, sustainable livelihoods and in-and out-migration. All locations studied share a peripheral position, geographically and/or economically, in relation to the national centre, but the national and international contexts of which they are part are very different. The cases of southern Estonia and eastern Finland are discussed in detail in relation to the gendered patterns of "culture work" through which local and ethnic identities are maintained, recreated and appropriated. Many local people have become aware of the unique subjective worth of their culture. They have also realised that local traditions, landscapes and livelihoods constitute valuable resources. In the regions studied women, including elderly ones, are especially active in processes of re-vitalization of local cultural traditions.

Panel W079
Globalising neighbourhoods or tradition-based parallel societies? Studying migration and cultural diversity in rural areas