Geography Speaker Series: Michael Woods

Apr 1st, 2013

J. Thorburn

Michael Woods
Geography Speaker Series: Michael Woods

Dr. Michael Woods (University of Aberystwyth) joins us this week for the final presentation in the Geography Speaker Series this semester. He will be discussing "Grounding Global Challenges and the Relational Politics of the Rural" on Friday, April 5 at 3:00 p.m. in SN 2025. The abstract for this talk can be found below.

Dr. Woods is Professor of Human Geography and Director of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences. He joined IGES in 1996, having completed his first degree at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and his PhD at Bristol University. He became Acting Director of IGES in July 2007 and Director in September 2008. Dr. Woods' main research interests lie in the fields of rural geography and political geography. He has been Co-Director of the Wales Rural Observatory (a collaborative venture with Cardiff University) since 2007, and is coordinator of a major European project on ‘Developing Europe’s Rural Regions in the Era of Globalization’ (DERREG). He is also collaborating with colleagues at the University of Queensland in Brisbane in research on ‘globally engaged’ farmers, and is convenor of the Environment and Tourism Thematic Group for the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD). He was awarded the John Fraser Hart Award for Research Excellence in Rural Geography by the Association of American Geographers in 2010.


Rural spaces are central to both the reproduction and the mitigation of many identified 'global challenges' - food and water security, competition for natural resources, responses to concerns for energy security, tensions around migrant labour in rural communities, animal to human transmission of disease, and the impact of climate change on agriculture and on the natural environment. Yet, the conceptualisation of the 'rural' in current literature on these global uncertainties tends to be functional and fails to appreciate the complexities of the hybrid rural and the influence of diverse discursive constructs of rurality. As such, it is argued that political responses to global uncertainties risk failure unless they understand and engage with the new relational politics of the rural. Drawing on and developing Amin's (2004) model of the relational politics of place, the paper describes the significance of the identified processes in shaping both a 'politics of propinquity' in which conflicts revolve around the proximity of competing representations of and claims to rural space (including the conflicting demands of response to different 'global challenges', for example, food security and energy security), and a 'politics of connectivity' in which the constitution of rural places is entangled in wider networks. Through these entanglements 'global challenges' are grounded in specific places, but not localised to them – rather scalar and spatial distances are collapsed as rural and urban politics and global and local politics are blended into inter-dependent relations, contributing to the dynamic and hybrid reproduction of the emergent 'global countryside'.