P-03/04 Constructing the countryside: Differences in teenagers’ images of the rural.

Paper presented at the XI World Congress in Rural Sociology Trondheim – Norway, July 25 – 30. Following the 'cultural turn' within the social sciences, recent debates on how to conceptualize 'the rural' have focused on 'rurality' as a phenomenon produced by processes of social construction. This paper presents an empirical account of the 'outcome' of these social con¬struc¬tion processes through an analysis of how teenagers in a remote rural area in Norway reflect on the concept of 'rurality'. What do they perceive as key characteristics of rurality? Contrary to most previous studies in the field, the data presented in this paper is collected from a large sample and through quantitative methods. This enables a more thorough description of the variety of images of the countryside, as well as an assessment of the degree to which they are representative in statistical terms. Importantly, the research design also allows for an analysis of how these images are related to structural variables, such as social class position, gender and migration trajectory. The results indicate that the majority of rural youth keep a view of the countryside that is in accordance with the 'rural idyll' / 'rural dull' – these two images of the rural being complementary rather then contradictory. However, there is a huge diversity in the rural youth's images of the rural, the predominant view being far from hegemonic. These differences follow to some extent structural lines, e.g. those on the top and the bottom of the social ladder keep more positive views of the rural than others.

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