Topic: Territorial Inequalities, Resilience Practices and Spatial Justice in Rural Greece
Key words: rural spatial justice, rural regeneration, austerity, justice claims, Greece
Rural areas are often considered as areas where economic opportunities, access to services and employment positions are lacking and there is need for more targeted policy interventions to mitigate economic inequalities. The numerous socioeconomic problems (e.g. demographic decline, low education, low-skilled employment, etc.) together with poor infrastructures do not allow for optimistic prospects for the vast majority of rural areas. Rural abandonment is the end result of demographic deterioration and social marginalization of many areas. On the other hand, certain rural areas have become ‘hot spots’ of globalization due to intensive agriculture or have maintained rural development dynamics on the basis of combining various income sources due to their capacity to devise resilience practices.
In the era of austerity, Greek rural areas gathered the attention of urban dwellers and young people who were seeking for alternative life opportunities or for sustaining a quality of life in alignment with their middle-class status. In this way, the perceptions of the rural were (re)constructed on the basis of new entrepreneurial/employment opportunities connected to environmental values and sustainable development goals. This narrative of ‘rural regeneration’, linked to the ‘return to agriculture and countryside’ movement, was contested by the harsh reality of the country’s regional inequalities, peripheralization and insularity. Due to austerity measures, many developed rural areas experienced the implications of cuts in state funding of public services along with the reduction of incomes of the salaried and the pensioners.
This paper based on research material collected in the context of the IMAJINE project, sheds light on the facets of the ‘rural regeneration’ narrative against the ‘austerity’ narrative in an attempt to uncover the complexity of the issues related to territorial inequalities, resilience practices and spatial justice in Greece. Our main argument is that the spatial scale (regional or local) offers diverging interpretations of these issues along with the appropriate measures to address them. Moreover, the claims of justice/ injustice on the part of various rural actors are important constructs for addressing rural spatial justice at regional or local level.
 The project “Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe IMAJINE” has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, under Grant Agreement No. 726950.