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Anthropological approaches to rural Western Europe today

In the last three decades the anthropology of Western Europe has become almost exclusively an anthropology of urban life. The anthropology of rural life in Western Europe has been progressively neglected. Yet, just because cities concentrate people who continue to produce new and unexpected forms of social organization does not mean rurality becomes the emptying home of a tired traditionalism. Far from it. Since the city is only defined by opposition to the countryside, and since rural movements have urban effects, we cannot ignore the changes taking place in hamlets, villages, and rural towns throughout Western Europe. They are a integral part and parcel of life in Europe today. The key aim of this book is to redress this academic imbalance, by examining some of the central changes in the rural zones of contemporary Western Europe. In particular, most contributors look at the newcomers to these areas and the rainbow variety of effects they are having. The ‘alternative’ in our title is to be understood broadly. The contributors are not just looking at the self-proclaimed alternatives (hippies, New Agers, back-to-nature types, etc.) but at labour migrants from outside Western Europe and affluent resettlers as well. Members of all these groups are, in their own way, contributing towards the construction of a non-traditional countryside. All of them help to maintain life in rural areas which would otherwise be emptying of residents.

Open Access (free)
Jeremy Gould

not possible here. Instead, the focus is on a body of work that is unique in the fragmented field of political anthropology for its theoretical and methodological coherence – the research of the ‘APAD’ school of rural anthropology, which has systematically surveyed transformations of local political arenas, primarily in francophone West Africa, since the early 1990s.2 Olivier de Sardan characterizes the work of APAD as ‘development anthropology’; much of the APADian literature deals with development interventions – a theme noted earlier. Unlike most writing on

in Democratization through the looking-glass