Topic: Rural Stayers in the Spotlight
Population and rural geography research has mainly focused on the ‘migration discourse’ (Barcus & Halfacree 2018; Cooke 2011; Cresswell 2011 & 2012; Sheller & Urry 2006; Stockdale & Haartsen 2018) and has given limited attention to those who do not move (stayers). Yet, residential mobility is an infrequent occurrence in most people’s lives (Coulter & van Ham 2013; Coulter et al. 2016) and national migration rates are in decline: the expansion of daily-life and virtual mobilities (e.g. commuting and social media) has increased the possibilities to stay (Cooke & Shuttleworth 2017). Staying, especially in rural areas, is frequently reported in negative terms (Looker & Naylor 2009; Nugin 2014; Tucker et al. 2013). But increasingly there have been calls for it to be considered more positively, for example, in a recent Special Issue of Population, Space and Place ‘Putting rural Stayers in the Spotlight’. We concentrate on the agency of stayers and view staying as a positive and deliberate decision (based on senses of rural identity and selective and elective (s/elective) belonging) which is re-evaluated over the life course (Geist & McManus 2008; Haartsen & Stockdale 2018; Hjälm 2014). Those who elect to stay and to belong are likely to be a valuable resource contributing to rural community quality of life and participatory society.
We report on our preliminary research which shows that the decision to stay is re-negotiated at key life stage transitions (Haartsen & Stockdale 2018; Stockdale et al. 2018), and introduce our new international research project (STAYin(g)Rural) which examines staying in three countries (N Ireland, Netherlands and Germany) and at three life course stages: the young adulthood, family formation and post-retirement stages. In doing so, we adopt a life course perspective on staying and position the decision to stay within stayer biographies. We seek to capture the multiple types of contemporary rural stayers (for example, newcomers who have stayed; those staying in the rural but not in their home rural area; etc.), staying processes, and stayers’ participation in and contribution to social community life. All have been under-researched to date.