The Impact of EU Sustainable Development Policies on Subsistence Households
Sociology University of Leipzig Germany,
Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, this study explores the effects of globally-driven agenda of sustainable development on the re-configuration of social space in selected rural areas of Romania, Poland, and Eastern Germany. This agenda constitutes a core priority of the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), but so far little research has been done on its consequences on rural areas, other than generating economic development. This research will contribute to the already existing literature on critical junctures of globalization by providing insights into the impact of sustainable development agendas - and in particular eco-tourism - on the traditional logic of subsistence communities. Specifically, my project will investigate how rural areas, especially those defined as basic, simple subsistence economies, become involved in a process of developing new spatial reference points. Such a process is triggered by global pressures for sustainable development, whether via EU conditionality (Directives, Regulations), or directly through eco-tourists and international corporations that search low-cost markets with "great potential".
Due to global sustainable development rural areas are spaces where innovation and traditionalism not only meet, but also transform one another. My interest lies in how contingencies between internationally-defined eco-tourism and the traditional lifestyle of subsistence households re-shape social space. More concretely, I investigate how a) rural people´s views on and management of natural environment; b) their experienced and imagined space; and, finally, c) their sense of socio-economic space, change when their rural community is exposed to the global and EU pressures and incentives for eco-tourism. In re-framing social space, such contingencies, as a rule, will a) generate more exploitative approach to natural environment; b) introduce a new form of "localized cosmopolitanism", that is, opening up to outsiders and the global regimes that set them in motion; and c) alter traditional patterns of production, by bringing in profit-oriented, disciplined behavior driven by partially novel investment objects.