BSc/MSc thesis topics: Where is the rural?

The classic nineteenth century thinkers devoted comparatively little attention to the rural, concentrating their work on the coincidence of urban-industrial as the modern spatial and socio-economic ‘setting’ of modern life. While the urban-industrial was considered contemporary and developed, dynamic and  active, modern and progressive, the rural was looked upon as archaic and backward, static and passive, traditional and conservative. The rural emerged as a residual category of our thinking of modern society.

Over time rural sociology has been plagued by the question what the rural is? Some have argued that the rural (and for that matter the urban) is a socio-spatial category: the space of agriculture. However such definitions are intrinsically instable, since the occupational basis of rural populations has become loosely connected with agriculture. Attempts to differentiate the rural and the urban on basis of other social characteristics as population size and density also proofed to be untenable. Others have argued that the urban ‘exploded’  into the countryside and the world we live in has become one of planetary urbanization, leaving us behind with the question where the rural has gone to?

We are looking for students who are interested in doing a BSc/MSc thesis study into the question of the what and where the rural is. Questions that can be explored are: How has the rural been defined in sociological theory; what socio-spatial constructions of the rural have been made? Is there still place for an idea of the ‘rural’ in ‘planetary urbanization’? To what extend is our thinking ensnared by the words ‘rural’ and ‘urban’, forcing us to think in highly problematic analytical and empirical categories?

Students interested have the choice to deal with these questions in different ways and from various perspectives. Depending on your interest you can do a literature research into past and present of defining the rural, empirical research into constructions of the rural, or delve into theory, for example by exploring the thinking of Deleuze or Lefebvre for developing new ‘vocabularies’ or notions of socio-spatiality.

Interested or looking for more information? Please contact Joost Jongerden at or Leeuwenborch room 3027