Resilience: a Conceptual Lens for Rural Studies?


Correspondence address: Mark Scott, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin, Ireland.



This paper examines the concept of resilience and its increasing application within rural studies in the face of both economic uncertainty and ecological crisis. Two approaches to resilience are firstly explored: an equilibrium (or bounce-back) approach, based on ‘return to normal’ assumptions, and an evolutionary (or bounce-forward) approach characterised by an emphasis on adaptive capacity and transformation. While resilience overlaps with the existing literature within rural studies and rural development, the paper argues that resilience thinking opens up new perspectives and provides the potential to ‘re-frame’ rural studies debates, provides a bridging concept. Two key contributions of resilience are identified: Firstly, resilience offers alternative analytical methods and insights for rural studies, particularly when drawing on evolutionary economic geography ideas of path dependencies and path creation, a relational perspective of rural space, and identification of place attributes which may enhance or undermine resilience. Secondly, resilience provides an alternative policy narrative for rural development practice. This includes an emphasis on adaptive networked governance, embedding ecological concerns into rural development practices and a call for blending the local and global in rural development processes. The paper concludes by identifying future research directions for rural resilience.