Topic: Inequalities, disadvantage and displacement: neglected dimensions of rural gentrification?
Keywords: rural gentrification; displacement; assets; England
Inequality and social disadvantage have long been central motifs within the study of gentrification, often bound into notions of displacement that have been viewed as a definitive of, at least, critical perspective on this concept (see Slater 2006, 2008). There have, however, been suggestions that displacement has itself become displaced from this central position (Slater 2006), and claims in both urban and rural contexts that replacement rather than displacement might characterise many instances of so-called gentrification (e.g. Hamnett 2003; Halfacree 2018). Set against these arguments, it is possible to identify signs of a resurgent theoretical and empirical concern with displacement and associated issues such as inequality and social disadvantage, at least within urban studies (e.g. Slater 2009; 2010; Davidson and Lees 2010; Davidson & Wyly 2012; Zhang and He 2018). Such work can be seen to highlight the significance of inequalities and transformations in a range of opportunity structures beyond housing and labour markets that have long formed a central component of gentrification related displacement, including access to public and private services, consumption opportunities and affective connections with people and places. The current paper seeks to explore whether rural research could draw lessons from such work, drawing on an ESRC funded comparative study of villages in five rural districts of England. Employing an asset-based theorisation of gentrification, it is argued that displacement needs to be viewed as a multi-dimensional expression of inequalities in opportunities to access to material, communicative and affective assets. Attention is drawn to the significance of the spatialities of these assets and their connection to ideas of direct and indirect forms of displacement that have emerged from the work of Marcuse (1985, 1986), and also to the temporal dynamics of gentrification and displacement, with often exhibit both asynchronicity and extended duration. It is argued that these features demonstrate the significance of ‘relations of exteriority’ (De Landa, 2006) within the formation of gentrification, but that displacements, and associated issues of social inequalities, disadvantage, isolation and exclusion, are very much in evidence in the contemporary English countryside.