Food, art, books : a case study of the cultural politics of rural place branding

Fordham, Andrew Ian (2012). Food, art, books : a case study of the cultural politics of rural place branding. PhD thesis The Open University.



Using a multi-sited ethnographic case study, this thesis examines the development of rural place brands in three towns in Scotland. Engaging with the literatures on place branding and entrepreneurial governance, and the theoretical work of Pierre Bourdieu, this thesis critically examines how and why the place brands in a rural context were developed; how the places were transformed (reconstructed) through branding; the struggles and contestations within the branding process; and the perceived audiences for such developments. It is argued that whilst there are numerous similarities in the developments of the brands, there are also significant differences to that of urban place branding. This thesis thus problematises the application of theories of branding developed in urban areas to rural contexts. It is also argued that, despite the branding literature suggesting that brands promote a clear, coherent and holistic identity for place (see Kavaratzis, 2005), the development of brands in the current research has been deeply contested, and fraught with various struggles over how the brand (and the place more broadly) should be represented. This thesis thus challenges the extent to which a clear, coherent and holistic identity of the brand (and place) can be established. Finally, whilst it has been argued that place marketing and branding strategies seek to target specific audiences (as was also the case in the current research) (see Gotham, 2002), this thesis argues that in practice, this is a deeply problematic process as the audience of place brands is actually rather diverse. In sum, this thesis makes a significant contribution to our knowledge on place branding by providing an in-depth critical examination of place branding processes in a rural context, which has been all too often neglected by a dominant focus on the urban.

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