P-4/05 Gossip and rumour – the dark side of the rural safe and good?

Paper to the European Society for Rural Sociology XXI Congress, 22-27 August, 2005 Keszthely, Hungary. The paper examines how young people understand the 'rural' and whether there are gender differences in their views of rural life. Based on 130 essays and six focus group interviews among college students, the rural discourse among both rural and urban youth is explored. The 'rural' is not seen as a fixed reality, but a constructed and contested concept. Both girls and boys construct the 'rural' by contrasting it with the 'urban' and they identify both positive and negative aspects of rural life. Raising children and growing up in the countryside is seen as a positive aspect, while being young in a rural area is more questionable. The impact of gender is seen in various ways. One interesting finding is that girls are more concerned than the boys with the limitation rumour and gossip put upon rural life. We examine the discourse on gossip – as the shadowed side of ‘safe and good’; which is a general representation of rural life. The analysis relates to theories of modernization processes and how individuality might be challenged in small-scale communities.

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