Rural resilience: Ethnographic perspectives on voluntary practices in rural Norrland
The project studies the concrete practices and emic understandings of rural voluntary practices in Swedish Norrland.
The project consists of 3 sub-projects focusing on: 1) collective practices, 2) individual practices, and 3) mediatised representations. Working from a broad definition of voluntarism, the project pays attention to initiatives where people on a voluntary basis ‘take over’ what has been considered the responsibility of either the public sector or market. The notion of ‘resilience’ is core to this task, as it directs the focus towards the power relations that practices of civil society are caught up in and responding to. Through interviews with participants in such initiatives – be they collective and organised or not – the project offers new perspectives on processes that have elsewhere been described in terms of ‘institutional fixes’. In fleshing out the concrete and everyday meanings of rural voluntary work, the project also engages in how initiatives are represented in the news press and the way social media have become an inseparable part of the studied practices. Using discourse analysis, the goal is to capture the complexity of voluntary practices in contemporary rural areas and how they relate to processes of neoliberal governance as well as to (conflicting) notions of rural identity. Understanding such processes from an emic point of view is crucial to put contemporary politics into perspective.