Bianka Plüschke-Altof will defend her doctoral thesis titled Images of the Periphery Impeding Rural Development? Discursive Peripheralization of Rural Areas in Post-Socialist Estonia" on 28 December 2017 at 13.15.
Accociate Professor Andres Kuusik, PhD, School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Tartu
Senior Research Fellow Aet Annist, PhD, Institute of Cultural Research, University of Tartu
Senior Research Fellow Judit Timár, PhD, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies Békéscsaba, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Ungari
Professor Helen Sooväli-Sepping, PhD, School of Natural Sciences and Health, Tallinn University
Description of the Problem:
The current discussion on the administrative reform in Estonia marks the peak of debates on the question of how to maintain life in the countryside conducted since Estonia regained its independence in 1991. In recent years, image making, in the form of place marketing and branding, has been discussed as a new beacon of hope for rural development. However, against the backdrop of continuous peripheralization processes, rural areas have faced a particularly negative image as peripheries per se, which often prevail over the positive ascriptions to rurality as traditional and wholesome way of life. The dissertation focuses precisely on this relationship between images and development by analyzing the role that images play in the peripheralization of rural areas, as well as in the attempts to overcome their peripheral status. It aims to understand the making of peripheries in Estonian public discourses by asking how peripheries are constructed, by whom and with what consequences for those areas that are labelled as peripheral.
Result and Benefit:
With the help of a discourse analysis of opinion pieces in Estonian print media, the dissertation shows that the image of rural areas as peripheral is neither self-evident nor inevitable but actively constructed by an “opinion elite” that can be described as urban, male and intellectual. On the basis of in-depth interviews and participant observation over the course of two case studies, it moreover explores the ways in which Estonian rural areas try to fight against this peripheral image and discusses the benefits and challenges of different image-based development strategies. The dissertation therefore does not only have implications for academic debate, especially in the field of rural development, but also for practitioners at the national and local level who are actively participating in the creation of rural images and their commodification for the purposes of development.