Analysing Changes in Discursive Constructions of Rural Areas in the Context of Demographic Change. Towards Counterpoints in the Dominant Discourse on “Dying Villages”

Gabriela B. Christmann


Empirically, this article is based on a research project on rural municipalities in structurally weak regions of Germany suffering from demographic change and attempting to find ways out of their crisis situation through novel approaches in community development. The example of the village of Treptitz in Saxony, which was investigated using an ethnographic discourse analysis, demonstrated that a small-scale discourse (of restricted spatial range) developed in the context of its innovative sewage works and biogas project. There, commonly shared knowledge could establish a context in which the village is considered an ingenious, socially intact, resolute and thus vibrant village; a village that actively pursues its prospects for the future. This small-scale discourse defies the wider demographic discourse, which, as the article shows, focuses primarily on “dying villages.”

For the conceptualisation of the empirical observations, the article is based on the assumption that it is in communications and in public discourses – in particular specific recurrent contents on rural areas and demographic change – that specific knowledge elements and reality constructions of rural areas emerge and stabilise within society. This assumption includes the idea that when the content of public discourses on rural areas change, for example through small-scale discursive counterpoints, it is possible for new knowledge elements and new constructions of reality to develop. Against this background, the approach of a (new) discursive construction of spaces is selected as theoretical starting point for the analysis. By referring to the communicative-constructivism approach and by integrating the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse, it is perfectly suited for theoretically spelling out changing discursive constructions of rural areas in the context of demographic change.


Demographic change; Structurally weak rural areas; Discourse; Changing communicative constructions of spaces; Community development

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