The Brexit referendum of June 2016, the United States presidential election of November of that same year and the recent gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement in France have brought unprecedented international attention to rural areas in the Western world. While some scholars have argued that the urban-rural dichotomy is a mistaken and misleading construct, others are questioning the reasons behind the evident different political choices rural and urban voters make, their varied understandings of ideas of identity and nationhood, and the different socio-demographic phenomena that rural and urban areas are experiencing in industrialized countries. A strong curiosity about the very idea of rurality seems to be emerging and many questions are yet to be answered. How is it possible that rural refers to ideas of backwardness, lack of development, and decay, but at the same time it is also associated with value place-images of country life? What does rural actually encompass? What is the future of these territories in a post-global world, when nationalist-populist movements are presenting rural areas as the last strongholds of national identities? What is the future of rural Europe under these circumstances?
The Institute of European Studies and the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UC Berkeley invite proposals for a one-day graduate conference that aims to bring together students working on European rural issues at the local, regional, national, and continental level. The conference will be multidisciplinary in nature and it is open to students in the humanities, social sciences, law, public policy, and creative disciplines, working on the topic from different perspectives and with varied chronological approaches. The conference aims to expand the boundaries of rural studies, trying to go beyond established clichés that tend to oversimplify rural issues by merely comparing them with their urban counterparts. The ultimate goal of the conference is to provide graduate students working on topics with a European rural component a platform to interact with each other and also with professors from different departments across campus. As a graduate conference, students are expected to present a synopsis of their research, which can be a work in progress.