This panel aims at contrasting the utopian vision of rural spaces with the pressures induced by the neoliberal order. A dilemma rises between the urge to preserve the traditional image of the rural landscape and the neoliberal practices that threaten the 'rural utopia'.
This panel aims at observing and analysing the different meanings rural space may convey in today's globalised mostly urbanised world. Recent research on rural tourism shows that the increasing attractiveness of those alternative forms of tourism, such as agrotourism or ecotourism/rural tourism, is due to a sort of nostalgia of a rural paradise lost. Rurality is frequently presented as the place of authenticity, of genuine products, of real values and traditions. Those arguments, applied for marketing purposes, nourish a rural utopian imaginary for city dwellers. For visitors, rural space is hence presented as a preserved landscape, a place of quietness and harmony with nature, a resourceful place allowing a return to a Golden Age. However, this utopian vision of rural spaces contrasts with the pressures induced by the neoliberal order which brings new social agents in rural areas. New types of cleavages are being formed and new forms of social identity are emerging. A dilemma rises between the urge to preserve the traditional image of the rural landscape and the neoliberal practices that threaten the 'rural utopia'. We invite authors to present their research results focusing on rural space as an idealised place of utopian characteristics opposed to broad neoliberal trends. This can be explored through a contested rural ideology, the processes of land privatization, the implications of economic liberalization, the questions of memory, consumption and identity, and last but not least through representations of rural spaces.