Supervisors: prof Art Leete;
prof Peeter Torop
Opponents: emeriitprofessor Orvar Löfgren, Lundi Ülikool
dotsent Håkan Jönsson, Lundi Ülikool
The main aim of the dissertation is to examine how 'performance' works as a methodological perspective for the analysis of rural tourism and hospitality services offering diverse experiences of modern rurality. More precisely, the thesis focuses on ways in which such services are staged and performed by Estonian micro-scale rural entrepreneurs, considered as 'stage directors' and 'performers'. Entrepreneurial activity is regarded in the social constructivist and phenomenological framework as a cultural practice and a performative expression of one's creativity. The dissertation incorporates a framing text and four publications. Three of these are empirical and employ 'performance' in different ways for examining varied experience-services such as: dining at a home restaurant, forging a lucky horseshoe for newlyweds, enacting a farm work day and taking a smoke sauna. The Estonian cases are presented in the larger context of structural changes in contemporary European rurality, especially related to the commodification and consumption of the countryside. For a foreign reader an overview of the major transitions in Estonian rural life throughout the 20th to 21st century is provided; bringing into focus the transformations related to the farm culture and the development of rural tourism. The thesis claims that 'performance' can be a fruitful interpretative tool for understanding the cultural significance of these transformations. In this light a particular performance perspective is suggested that sees entrepreneurs as active cultural agents, who develop services that exploit different cultural repertoires and combine elements of traditional rurality with those that are personally meaningful. The concluding discussion puts emphasis on how the Estonian countryside has become increasingly a hybrid place, in terms of materialities as well as practices, and points out what are the challenges related to the stageability of rural experience services in micro-enterprises. Finally suggestions are given for developing a more complex performance perspective on rural commodification, that considers the interplay between individuals' actions and ideologies promoted by certain social scripts (e.g. particular policies or marketing principles).