The connection of challenges of the future and empirical studies on rurality
Rural spaces are relevant to several topics which are currently subject of public debate. Climate change, ecological disasters, reproduction technologies and live-stock breeding, environmental and animal protection movements confront technological feasibility with ethical principles. Rural spaces are thus important arenas in which concepts for the future are negotiated. And here history comes in: the countryside, nature, landscapes, and province formed places and spaces where historical change became perceptible in the past and where the challenges of the future will become visible. The special issue reflects on how to connect these challenges to empirical studies on rurality. It brings together the results of an international and interdisciplinary research group which discussed the potential of three theoretical concepts regarding the meanings of rurality: space, media/translation, and materiality. The empirical studies focus on rural societies in East Central Europe from the early modern times to contemporary developments. By this we break with the frequent tendency to test new research approaches primarily on examples in the “global West” or in metropolitan areas.