‘You can get away with loads because there’s no one here’: Discourses of regulation and non-regulation in English rural spaces

Neal, Sarah and Walters, Sue (2007). ‘You can get away with loads because there’s no one here’: Discourses of regulation and non-regulation in English rural spaces. Geoforum, 38(2) pp. 252–263.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2006.07.003

Abstract

Using qualitative data from a research project investigating contemporary rural identities in England this paper examines the apparently contradictory discursive claims that are made on rural spaces. It looks in particular at the ways in which these are narrated through the notions of rural space as a site of safety, orderliness and community on the one hand and as a site of freedom, anti-order and non-regulation on the other. While the former is a familiar, entrenched and critiqued representation of rurality, the latter narrative has a more marginal and ambivalent place in the dominant rural imaginary. Drawing on Foucault's concepts of panopticism and heterotopia the paper demonstrates the ways in which the rural is a highly labile concept and emphasises its continual 'unfinishedness'. However, alongside this, the paper suggests that the tensions and contradictions of the orderly and anti-orderly discourses are underpinned by a particular coherency that is driven by senses of community, belonging and self-regulation. While these do not resolve the contradictions of the discursive claims the potency of such drivers are sufficient to produce a particular inclusive spatiality which is able to accommodate and incorporate the different discursive positions and the practices that are associated with each. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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