As ties between the rural and urban intensify with increased mobility and technological innovations, social distinction becomes more pronounced. This panel explores how the desire for an authentic life influences images, representations and performances of the urban and rural as social categories.
With growing rates of urbanization, new ways of living together have impacted questions of belonging and identification. Still, there continue to be lasting connections between urban and rural lives, as shown by the recent wave of studies of autochthony. At the same time, studies of urban modernity call into question the direct and inadvertent effects of the intensification of urban-rural social ties. In this panel we assume that technological developments make ties between the urban and the rural more intense and obfuscates boundaries, creating new forms of life that span both presumed geographical and social divides. At the same time, these networks and technologies are not equally accessible to everybody, creating distinctions and stratification within urban and rural communities alike. The urban and the rural thus become new categories of social differentiation. More than geographical spaces, they become interconnected representations driven by a desire for authenticity associated with both an (urban) globalized, modern and interconnected world and, a (rural) traditional, grounded, local setting, each offsetting some of the perceived shortcomings of the other. In this panel, we explore the importance of this desire for authenticity and invite contributions that study empirical representations of the urban and the rural as social strategies of distinction and stratification. We are keen to learn about the ways in which imaginaries of the urban and the rural become performed/performative acts of identity associated with particular emic notion of social distinction, articulated through signs like language use, profession, religious acts, regimes of literacy, dress code, etc.