Katarina Pettersson & Gaddefors, J.

Corresponding author:

Dr., Ass. Prof. Katarina Pettersson

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development


Topic: Rural and Entrepreneurship – New Directions for Research?

Keywords: rural entrepreneurship, material, and immaterial space, spatial facets


In this paper we wish to contribute to the research on rural entrepreneurship by analysing and discussing how the concepts ‘rural’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ are theorised and defined in rural entrepreneurship research. Calls have been made for: defining ‘rural entrepreneurship’ (Wortman, 1990); developing theoretical frameworks to analyse rural entrepreneurship (Pato and Teixeira, 2016), and conceptualising ‘the rural’ (Bosworth, 2012; Dubois, 2016, Müller, 2016). To answer such calls, and to fill the apparent research gap on definitions of the rural in rural entrepreneurship research, we seek to deepen the theorisation on the rural in this research. Hence, the aim of the paper is to understand how rural (and related concepts such as rurality) and entrepreneurship are conceptualised in studies on rural entrepreneurship. We perform the analyses through, firstly, developing and applying theorisations on material and immaterial aspects of the rural in rural geography as our analytical lens, departing from Halfacree’s (2007) model of three spatial facets. We supplement this by adding Ahl’s (2006) categorisation of entrepreneurship research as either following an objectivist – or constructionist – epistemological perspective. Secondly, we propose how rural entrepreneurship research can become more theoretically informed, and developed, by incorporating such theorisations on the rural and entrepreneurship.

Methodologically we perform a discourse analysis, informed by an entrepreneurship perspective (Jack and Anderson, 2002; Korsgaard, Müller and Tanvig, 2015). We review peer reviewed research articles on rural entrepreneurship in (i) the leading journals on entrepreneurship (cf. Ahl, 2006), (ii) the two leading journals in rural studies (cf. Müller, 2016), and (iii) in the six leading journals in geography (cf., 3/3/2017).

The analyses tentatively show that rural entrepreneurship research to a large extent does not discuss theories on the rural. Besides, the rural is often (silently) defined as rural localities in a material perspective, focusing on e.g. long distances from urban centres, low population densities, or being mainly characterised by agriculture. We argue that including other facets of rural spaces, everyday lives and representations of the rural, would enrichen the rural entrepreneurship research. It would also work well together with more recent takes on context and entrepreneurship (Welter and Gartner, 2016; Gaddefors and Anderson, 2017).

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