Translating the Bottom-Up Frame

Everyday Negotiations of the European Union's Rural Development Programme LEADER in Germany

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures
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  • 1 University of Bonn omueller@uni-bonn.de
  • 2 University of Bonn ove.sutter@uni-bonn.de
  • 3 University of Bonn sina.wohlgemuth@uni-bonn.de

Abstract

The paper follows the different moments of translation when LEADER, the EU development programme for rural areas, is put into practice on the local level. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered during several field observations and semistructured interviews from two LEADER regions in Germany, we analyse how the interpretive repertoire of LEADER's bottom-up approach is actualised, appropriated and negotiated by different actors when translated into local contexts of participative rural development. Drawing on Stuart Hall's theoretical distinction of different positions of ‘decoding’, the article demonstrates how the ‘bottom-up frame’ is interpreted and adapted strategically from a ‘dominant-hegemonic’, ‘negotiated’ and ‘oppositional’ position.

Introduction

Despite increasing processes of urbanisation, a large part of the European Union's (EU) population still lives in rural areas. These areas are defined as problematic in EU development programmes regarding issues of demographic change, ecological sustainability, social cohesion or economic growth. In order to address these deficits, support regional economies and vitalise the sociocultural sphere, EU rural development programmes such as LEADER call upon local actors to implement development projects.

LEADER is of interest to an empirical cultural analysis of everyday life as the everyday world becomes an object of rural development in a twofold manner. First, the ‘community-led local development’ approach of LEADER aims to mobilise residents to take an active part in the drafting and implementation of development projects (European Commission 2014). Second, LEADER policy measures aim to change aspects of everyday life by trying to foster civic engagement, strengthen regional identity and develop regional networks.

In this paper, we track the different moments from an ethnographic angle when the interpretive repertoire of LEADER – that is, the ideas, concepts and categorisations – is translated at the local level of rural development. Referring to sociological and social anthropological concepts of frame analysis, we conceive this interpretive repertoire of LEADER as a ‘bottom-up frame’. We shed light on the contentious meanings of ‘bottom-up’ by following the trajectory of the bottom-up frame through various situations of its translation. The paper draws on ethnographic data collected during ten field observations, including project pitches in local action groups (LAG) meetings and project presentations in local fora as well as sixteen semistructured interviews, ranging between one and two hours. The interviews were conducted in German with representatives from municipal, county, district and regional governments and administrations, members of LAGs, project promoters and local representatives, such as village representatives (Ortsvorsteher) involved in policy implementation.1 The sites of project implementation vary greatly regarding their population size, from 150 to more than 2,000 inhabitants, and their capacities to adapt structural changes in rural areas. However, almost all villages researched face similar challenges, such as the decline of family farming and associated trends to develop into residential villages, high mobility requirements, a lack of public services and the loss of ‘rural’ characteristics with regard to architecture, settlement patterns and village green spaces due to ongoing processes of urbanisation.

First, we will exemplify the bottom-up approach of the LEADER programme. Second, we will outline our theoretical understanding of policy and the interpretive repertoire linked to LEADER's bottom-up approach as a bottom-up frame. Third, this bottom-up frame is investigated on the level of EU institutional politics. Finally, we will analyse how LEADER's bottom-up frame is translated into the local level. Therefore, we will focus on two different sites of translation: the meetings of the LAGs and the meetings between project managers and local residents.2

LEADER as a New Paradigm of Rural Development

The bottom-up approach of LEADER3 forms part of the ‘new rural development paradigm’ (Horlings and Marsden 2014), with its ‘emphasis on bottom-up, endogenous development; and the application of participatory rural development’ (Woods 2011: 132). During the 1980s, the modernisation paradigm, which is closely linked to the agro-industrial dynamic of the productivist development regime, became subject to growing criticism directed towards its underlying assumptions of linear development and related problems of ‘over-production, environmental degradation and spatial inequality’ (Woods 2011: 139). This criticism induced the gradual remodelling of rural policies (Johler 2001; van der Ploeg et al. 2000). The Cork Declaration is a cornerstone of this paradigmatic shift concerning the Western European context. It states that ‘the emphasis must be on participation and a “bottom-up” approach, which harnesses the creativity and solidarity of rural communities. Rural development must be local and community-driven’ (European Commission 1996: 2). Starting in 1991, the aim of LEADER was to diversify rural economies by activating rural areas’ ‘endogenous’ resources and local communities’ self-governing capacities (Ray 1997).

Rural development policies, as drivers of the new rural paradigm, stress endogenous resources, such as human and social capital, which should be activated and harnessed from within a locality (Høst 2016: 137; Kockel 2002). In this model, rural communities and local institutional actors are called upon to develop their territorial assets – that is their ‘social, cultural and environmental resources that can be harnessed in individual and divergent development paths’ (Woods 2011: 141).

The EU LEADER programme mirrors the notion of a differentiated countryside and the promise of local agency while simultaneously imposing a specific rhetoric, terminology and methodology of rural development. The LEADER programme is implemented in a multilevel governance framework via the national Rural Development Programmes, which concretise the aims and priorities of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (Grabski-Kieron 2016). The LEADER approach is characterised by seven key features: area-based local development strategies, a bottom-up approach, public-private partnerships (LAGs), innovation, integrated and multisectoral actions, networking and cooperation, of which the bottom-up approach can be considered its most important feature and anchor tenet. In the words of the European Commission, bottom-up in the context of LEADER ‘means that local actors participate in decision-making about the strategy and in the selection of the priorities to be pursued in their local area’ (European Commission 2006: 9).

The authoritative decision-making bodies for implementing LEADER on a local scale are the LAGs, which form public-private partnerships. The LAG adopts a local development strategy, determines the development priorities and allocation of funds, selects development projects and promotes the LEADER process to civil society at large. In theory, civil society actors should take a leading role in decision making; in practice, however, critics argue that ‘the promotion of local participation in rural development by the European Commission has been diluted to little more than mere rhetoric, more formal than real’ (Navarro, Woods, and Cejudo 2016: 272). This also holds true for the LAGs examined, as they are composed of representatives from public bodies up to a maximum of 49 per cent and are chaired by municipal and county representatives. Furthermore, LEADER funding only amounts to 65 per cent of the total project costs, and beneficiaries have to secure matching funds for their project ideas, which is usually provided by the municipalities involved. As a consequence, LEADER is usually considered another source of public funding by the actors involved.

Studying through LEADER as Policy: An Anthropological Approach

We employ theoretical concepts of the anthropology of policy to analyse how the discursive elements of the LEADER programme and, particularly, its bottom-up approach are actually translated, interpreted and negotiated on the local level of everyday worlds.4 Cris Shore and Susan Wright (2011: 2) apprehend policies as major governmental instruments that aim at classifying and organising people, social relations and ideas in a new way, promoting or preventing actions and perspectives of the social world. Policies are conceived of as ensembles of practices, techniques and interactive fields of conception, implementation and negotiation (Adam and Vonderau 2014) and network-like entities located at various scalar levels shaped by processes of ‘transversal Europeanization’ (Hess 2014). They are understood as ‘assemblages’ emerging from the interaction of different elements, such as social actors, regulations, organisms or material artefacts (Welz 2018: 79). The focus of anthropological research on policy, thus, moves away from the analysis of political centres or networks and towards the links and effects at various levels (Tsing 2005).

Policies, in the moments of their translation, are reinterpreted in a way that may go beyond and deviate from their original political intentions and goals (Clarke et al. 2015; Shore 2010). They are not simply adapted to local contexts but rather reformulated and, thus, brought into being in the moment of implementation (cf. Clarke et al. 2015; McCann and Ward 2012; Shore and Wright 2011). We employ the anthropological approach of ‘studying through’ and ‘multi-sited ethnography’ (Marcus 1995; Wright and Reinhold 2011) in our research project because we avoid a linear top-down presumption of policy implementation (Lathrop et al. 2005). Instead, we aim at investigating ‘how the meaning of keywords are [sic] contested and change’ (Wright and Reinhold 2011: 101) on their way back and forth between different sites. In doing so, we ethnographically follow LEADER through multiple sites and events of implementation, from village forums in local pubs and LAG meetings in town halls to networking events for LAG regional managers in Berlin and to the offices of EU officials in Brussels.

Second, we employ some of the concepts following Erving Goffman's (1974) approach of frame analysis to grasp the discursive elements of LEADER. Referring to Gregory Bateson's (1972) concept of frame as a mental construct, Goffman conceptualised frames as ‘schemata of interpretation’. According to Robert D. Benford and David A. Snow, who, among others, have developed the concept of ‘collective action frames’ to understand the ‘practices of meanings’ of social movements, frames enable individuals ‘to render events or occurrences meaningful and thereby function to organize experience and guide action’ (Benford and Snow 2000: 614). They define collective action frames as ‘action-oriented sets of beliefs and meanings that inspire and legitimate the activities and campaigns of a social movement organization’ (Benford and Snow 2000: 614). Even though LEADER is anything but a social movement campaign, it aims at restructuring political and everyday practices. Therefore, we apply the tasks of framing processes usually consisting of ‘diagnostic’, ‘prognostic’ and ‘motivational’ components (Benford and Snow 2000; Polletta and Chen 2012; Snow and Benford 1992; Vicari 2010) to the bottom-up frame.

Third, we adopt Stuart Hall's theoretical distinction of different positions of ‘decoding’ or ‘reading’ in the course of discursive or signifying processes to understand the different ways in which residents interpret and appropriate the bottom-up frame in their local context (Hall 1980, 1994). According to Hall, the encoded meaning already suggests to the recipients what he calls ‘a pattern of preferred reading’ that is imprinted by the ‘institutional/political/ideological order’. However, because Hall's understanding of reading or decoding also includes the capacity to put a number of signs into a ‘creative relation’ (Hall 1980: 124), he differentiates between three different forms of decoding: a ‘dominant-hegemonic position’, a ‘negotiated position’ and an ‘oppositional position’.

Applying these theoretical concepts to our analysis of how LEADER is translated into local everyday worlds, we will focus on the ‘interpretive repertoire’ (Keller 2011) and practices linked to LEADER's bottom-up approach as elements of the ‘bottom-up frame’. According to Reiner Keller (2011), an interpretive repertoire comprises typified units of meaning – ideas, concepts and categorisations – that are actualised in concrete events of discursive action (Keller 2011: 240). The typified schemes of interpreting individual and collective actions are actualised in discursive practices, such as the drafting of a local development strategy or by referring to it in order to legitimise actions. In the following, we will scrutinise how the ‘bottom-up frame’ as one such scheme of interpretation is translated into the local sphere of rural development, focusing on two different sites: the meetings of the LAG and the meetings between project managers and local residents in two villages where development measures are implemented.

Translations I: From the EU to the Regional Government Level

First, we must exemplify how the bottom-up approach is framed on the EU level in an ideal or ‘sanitised’ manner to understand these moments in more detail. The following quote by the European Court of Auditors expresses the bottom-up frame in an ideal manner. At EU level, the European Court of Auditors’ role is to check the implementation of EU funds, which is why their negotiated definition of bottom-up in the LEADER programme serves as a benchmark for its implementation.

The assumption behind the Leader approach is that there is an added value compared with traditional top-down implementation. Bottom-up approaches and interaction between different sectors at local level should mobilise local potential. Local groups should be best placed to identify integrated and innovative local solutions to local problems and can be more responsive. Participation in local decision-making should generate enthusiasm and increased commitment and can thereby result in better, more sustainable, local rural development. The community involvement achieved through the bottom-up approach can also lead to less tangible impacts, such as ‘capacity-building’ and ‘empowering the local population’. (European Court of Auditors 2010: 10; emphasis added by authors)

In this short excerpt, the European Court of Auditors expresses quite vividly what we have termed the ‘sanitised master frame’ of LEADER's bottom-up approach. It comprises a heterogeneity of elements that is the interpretive repertoire of the discourse of endogenous rural development that forms a mutually referential context of meaning. Referring to Nikolas Rose, those discursive elements can also be described as the actualisation of a neoliberal governmental rationality characterised by technologies of individualised responsibility, ‘active citizenship’ and governance ‘at a distance’ (Rose 2006: 153–160). Furthermore, the bottom-up frame of LEADER, with its strong emphasis on the self-governing capacities of responsible communities through citizen participation, is also linked to political technologies of audit and accountability (Strathern 2000). In order to enforce efficient budgetary spending and measure performance, LAGs and project promoters are subjected to wide-ranging obligations of monitoring, reporting and self-evaluation.

Regarding the policy paper cited, first, the notion of ‘interaction between different sectors’ encapsulates the idea of ‘knowledge transfer’. Knowledge transfer runs two ways: vertically as a transfer of regulatory funding knowledge, the know-how to use the programme, and horizontally as intraregional exchange processes (e.g., regarding development goals), which should stimulate ‘regional learning’ (Woods 2005: 105).

Second, ‘local potential’ and ‘local solutions to local problems’ refer to the idea of endogeneity, which infuses many sectors of public policy, such as cultural heritage preservation (Adell et al. 2015). Common to all those approaches is that they focus intervention on the creation or valorisation of a local resource base (social, cultural, economic, natural), which is locally owned and harnessed for the attainment of contextualised development goals. ‘Capacity-building’ refers to the development of sociocultural resources – that is the knowledge and skills – that enable local actors to determine and pursue locally adapted development paths.

Third, the notions of local agency and empowerment (‘participation in local decision-making’ and ‘empowering the local population’) stress that interventions should stimulate activity at the local level and promote the self-governing capacities of local communities. Community involvement in delivering development goals is considered pivotal. In the long run, local participation should animate a self-sustaining development dynamic, leading to increased autonomy of local communities.

Before the EU bottom-up frame is enacted on a local scale, it is subject to multiple translations and negotiations at the state level. In Germany, the first translation takes place when federal states transcribe the general EAFRD regulation (1305/2013) into their legislative Rural Development Programmes. The responsible ministry describes LEADER as a means to:

follow the so-called ‘bottom-up’ principle (from below to top). All citizens of a region are, thus, called to contribute with their own project ideas regarding the development process. Eventually, people on-site know best where the problems lie, where the regional strengths lie and how they can develop their region sustainably, economically and socially. (Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen 2016: 72; authors’ translation)

The rhetoric of endogeneity is enlisted here to make the case for self-governance of communities through citizen participation. The ministry has introduced a guideline indicating the role and tasks of each actor to safeguard the proper implementation of LEADER. Therein, LAGs are subject to multiple techniques and instruments of accounting, such as the project evaluation matrix, which is applied and, thus, translated into practice by all actors at all governance levels. This has led to the assumption that the autonomy provided with the granting of LEADER funds to LAGs is only relative to its obligations of reporting, monitoring and evaluating within the regulatory framework (Bosworth et al. 2015; Pollermann, Raue and Schnaut 2012).

Translations II: Project Pitches at LAG Meetings

After the LAG's application as a LEADER region has been approved by state government, they have to decide which projects will be part of the development strategy for the next years. An important platform for this decision-making process are the meetings of the LAG, which we attended continually to observe the process of translations of the policy into local practice and to personally connect to LAG members before and after the session. That allowed us to gain insights into the members’ points of view of the policy implementations and to learn about their personal reflections on the meetings. After having interviewed the regional managements of both regions, who perform a gatekeeper function regarding access to the LAG, we were invited to participate in the LAG meetings.

An important moment of translation happens when project promoters and LAG members meet during project pitches at LAG meetings. Project promoters have a time slot of around ten minutes to pitch their project outline. They must convince the LAG that their project is worth the funding so that the LAG approves the project idea. Drawing on Goffman (1956), the LAG meeting can hence be perceived as a ‘stage’ where actors perform according to the ‘script’ of the LEADER guidelines. The following example shows how the different actors involved employ LEADER's bottom-up frame during the LAG meetings.

We could observe how a project was pitched during a LAG meeting, which took place in the boardroom of a town hall from the seventies reminiscent of postwar modernism. The municipality is located at the fringe of the administrative district – the only public transport connection is a bus ride of one and a half hour. This peripheral location has contributed to the municipality's acclaim as a tourist destination; mostly elderly day trippers are roaming the streets of the historic centre on this day in late April. In the LAG meeting, about thirty members of the LAG sat at U-shaped tables when the chairperson called the agenda item ‘project presentations’ and a young, smart-suited managing director of a nature conservation association took the floor. He started his presentation by referring to the development strategy by highlighting that his project had already been listed as a beacon project at the time of the participation process, leading to the drafting of the local development strategy. He then clicked his PowerPoint presentation onwards, and newspaper headlines appeared: ‘Associations Are Lacking Volunteers’ or ‘Associations Are Dying Out’. ‘The newspapers drew a dark picture’, he commented, ‘the topic of young talent is of immense importance’. Together with his ‘two project partners’, both representatives of regional and national voluntary associations, he now wanted to take action and tackle this problem. ‘Together we form a network to which everyone contributes with different skills’, he emphasised. He specified, for example, that one partner had expertise in the management of hiking trails, the other had access to young people and the third one knew how to use social media. He visualised in a Gantt diagram – a project management method to visualise milestones and tasks in a bar timeline – the scheduling of how they wanted to implement these areas of competences into blocks of tasks. When his presentation was finished, the regional manager, a young professional in his thirties, commented, ‘THAT is LEADER: bottom-up, networking, innovation, not from public administration’.

The example shows how the bottom-up frame encourages reinterpretations of social practices at a local level. First, the situation above illustrates that the bottom-up frame's element of horizontal knowledge transfer (‘interaction between different sectors’) is adopted by the project promoter when he reinterprets his ‘social capital’ (Bourdieu 1990) into LEADER-specific terms, such as ‘partners’ or ‘network’. That the use of these terms follows a strategic function is exposed by the fact that the people called ‘partners’ by the project promoter are actually long-term daily colleagues, as we learnt in an informal conversation. The social capital can be understood, in this case, as the network he activates for the LEADER project to demonstrate his regional outlook when drafting the project proposal.

Second, the situation above illustrates that the bottom-up frame's element of ‘endogenous’ resources is translated by the project promoter when employing his pre-existing ‘cultural capital’ (Bourdieu 1990). The project promoter presupposes that the local actors can reach the rural development goals by highlighting their competencies and know-how. The reference to the local development strategy also shows that the project promoter deploys his knowledge about the LEADER procedures (e.g., that the strategy is developed in a participatory process).

Furthermore, the situation above highlights how the local actors adapt the bottom-up frame as an agency for solving bigger societal issues. With the rhetorical recourse to national newspaper articles, the project promoter positions his project as a contribution to solve overarching challenges. He underlines this by the performance of professional self-representation (suit, laptop with PowerPoint and Gantt chart), with which he positions the voluntary project on the same level as the practices common to the professional sphere of project management.

In conclusion, these examples show how, at the level of the LAG, the bottom-up frame is employed to fulfil primarily a prognostic function in addition to some diagnostic aspects. The project promoter applies the bottom-up frame strategically at the moment of self-representation and performance during a LAG meeting to position himself as LEADER fit and his project worth the funding. The bottom-up frame is, thus, activated to become part of his ‘plan of attack’ (Benford and Snow 2000: 616). Social and cultural capital is deployed, and agency is articulated as a solution for attaining the goal of implementing a project in the context of LEADER. All this is done by reinterpreting pre-existing practices consistent with LEADER's bottom-up rhetoric. It must be mentioned, however, that when entering the stage at the LAG level, actors are supposedly familiar with the key guidelines and instruments of the LEADER programme. How the bottom-up frame is enacted when people have not yet been introduced on the LEADER stage will be exemplified in the next section.

Translations III: Meetings between Project Managers and Local Residents

After project approval, the project promoters are in charge of implementation. They need to rally support among and motivate the inhabitants of the villages concerned to participate in project realisation. The projects are presented in local forums, some of which we attended in order to follow a project in all its stages and with all the different actors involved. Local forums usually take place at the village level with the involvement of local stakeholders. This approach is also referred to as ‘visiting participation’, when potential volunteers are addressed in the localised context of their immediate living environment. The following two examples show how differently those actors can appropriate and translate the bottom-up frame.

Decoding the Bottom-Up Frame from a Dominant-Hegemonic Position

The first event is an example of how residents appropriate and translate LEADER's bottom-up frame in the sense of what we call, referring to Hall (1980), the dominant-hegemonic position of decoding LEADER's bottom-up frame. In doing so, they adopt the encoded meaning almost identically and, therefore, operate ‘inside the dominant code’ (Hall 1980: 125). We observed this during a village forum, which is an instrument of village renewal. This village forum was initiated by the district administration but is administered by local actors from civil society. The measure debated during the event (a biodiversity conservation scheme) had already been commenced by the project promoter and public authorities by designating a meadow in the village without civic participation. Before implementation, the meadow had been mown twice a month during the summertime. From now on, it would be mown only twice a year during the spring and autumn. So far, only signposts – signalling the implementation of the development measure – had been installed. Rumours had gone around before the event regarding the background of the project and the consequences for the people living in the vicinity of the space, as we were told by the inhabitants we met during a three-week residency in that respective village. Some people considered the project an austerity measure by the municipality. Up to the point of project presentation, resistance against it had gained momentum among residents, and some of the signposts had been removed. The project promoter aimed at acceptance of the measure and participation of the local community in its implementation by presenting it in the village forum, which was convened on her behalf by the local chairperson, a young retiree and the village representative (Ortsvorsteher), a well-known personality and local entrepreneur.

The village forum took place in the back room of a pub. The atmosphere was friendly; participants seemed to know each other and were chatting about a prize that had recently been awarded to the village in a village renewal competition. After a short introduction by the chairperson, the project promoter, a woman in her forties working at a local conversation organisation, started to present the LEADER project and its aims and measures to the audience. Among the sixteen participants were the elected village representative, members of civic associations and interested residents. As the village forum is a communicative format, participants were drawn from the sphere of local politics, representing various stakeholder groups such as nature conservation and tourism associations, as well as residents, who took a more passive role in the course of events.

The project promoter repeatedly emphasised the participatory approach of LEADER by stating that the ideas for and the will to implement the project should be generated by and come from the villagers themselves. In the following discussion, the project promoter called on the participants to come up with ideas. The village representative seized the opportunity directly to criticise the fact that neither he nor the residents living adjacent to the green space had been informed prior to the commencement of the measure, thereby ‘putting the cart before the horse’. So, for him, he stated, there was no possibility of involving residents and answering queries, leading to an ambiguity as to the ownership and direction of the measure. He went on to say ‘that it is of utmost importance to involve residents from now on, their participation should be pivotal and not embellishment’.

The village representative wanted to look ahead and called on the project promoter to provide the necessary information and procedures. A ‘newcomer’, a dynamic man in his fifties who lives close to the green space, took the floor and explained that, at first, the signposts and the uncontrolled growth of weeds irritated him. But after having been informed about the aims of the project, he would sponsor it and was willing to assume the coordination of civic engagement in the neighbourhood. He wanted to rally support and identify volunteers willing to partake in the maintenance of the space by organising a get-together for the mowing. The resident said that he understood and wanted to use the green space as a ‘site of connection’ in the neighbourhood. Another resident added that he considered the project as an instrument providing ‘help for self-help’, helping the community to conserve and capitalise on the natural environment of the village in competition with other villages.

In this situation, various actors invoke different elements of LEADER's bottom-up frame and, thereby, position themselves and others in the discursive field of endogenous rural development. Drawing on the interpretive repertoire in support of their strategies, these actors seek to gain legitimacy for their agency and acceptance for their viewpoints. They secure their discursive positions vis-à-vis others by adopting the preferred reading of local development suggested by the project promoter as a process that calls for the residents’ bottom-up participation. They adopt the interpretive repertoire of LEADER's bottom-up frame almost identically and, therefore, operate ‘inside the dominant code’ (Hall 1980: 125).

The project promoter draws on ideas of endogeneity – in this case, that the residents should develop ideas for project implementation and contribute to its realisation. She requests that the participants of the forum accept the perspective that the project ‘should be wanted’ by residents, even though the project started as a de facto top-down measure without citizen participation. She repeatedly reminds the participants that the impulse must spring from the local community, which should tailor and use the green space according to their needs. Thereby, she calls upon the participating residents as ‘active residents’, which ‘refers to people who feel responsible for the overall success of the local community and invest a substantial amount of their spare time and effort in achieving this’ (Gieling and Haartsen 2017: 580).

The residents, in turn, decode the project promoter's application of the bottom-up frame from a dominant-hegemonic position by accepting this view and contributing ideas and labour. Adopting the preferred reading, they conceive their village as a site for the implementation of development measures, but, primarily, they also assume responsibility that this particular project should be realised by themselves. The resident who declares that he is willing to contribute to the project accepts this view and, thereby, adopts the subject position of an ‘active resident’. Within the bottom-up frame, it is not any agency that is considered legitimate but, to stay with the example of the neighbour above, it is his agency in activating, motivating and coordinating civic engagement among residents.

Furthermore, and in accordance with the preferred reading of the bottom-up frame, the different actors draw on the ideas of local agency and empowerment. The remarks made by the community representative are illustrative in this regard. By stating that ‘it is of utmost importance to involve residents from now on, their participation should be pivotal and not embellishment’, he adopts the subject position of an ‘active resident’ in accordance with the governmental rationality. He turns the fact of insufficient involvement of local actors into the demand for more citizen participation, thereby enhancing his legitimacy as a community representative in the village forum. Hence, he decodes the bottom-up frame from a dominant-hegemonic position. Viewing these observations in the light of Rose's notion of ‘advanced liberal’ governmentality, one can easily discern how the ‘active citizen’ materialises in this scene, taking up responsibility for the benefit of the community. However, because the village forum is an arena of contested social relations itself, the interpretive repertoire of the bottom-up frame may be employed strategically. Exemplarily, as the ‘active resident’ explained to us in an informal interview, the green space adjacent to his house was one of the reasons for moving to this place. Thus, one might conclude that he adopts the bottom-up frame and the role of the ‘active citizen’ strategically as a means to legitimately gain access to the meadow and remodel it. That the very same interpretive repertoire can be deployed in order to achieve totally different outcomes will be illustrated in the following example.

Decoding the Bottom-Up Frame from an Oppositional and Negotiated Position

However, the view that the project should be wanted and ‘owned’ by the local population does not go unchallenged in every instance but is, instead, sometimes contested and objected to, as our last example will show. The scene happened during an informal local forum in one of the boardrooms of the local town hall from another municipality, to which we were invited on behalf of the project promoter. Here, the same LEADER project as in the example above was presented to a round of local caretakers from various villages in order to convince and motivate them to participate and work as ‘multipliers’. In this case, there were seven caretakers and members of associations, all men in their fifties; the full-time mayor; the head of staff from the department of urban development and the project promoter, the only woman in the room, who was employed by a local conservation agency to promote the project in this area. After project presentation, a caretaker and chairman of the local association for the embellishment of the village, a man in his early fifties, opened the discussion by stating that all the measures presented had already been implemented in the context of village renewal and that there were no more free spaces in his village. The mayor intervened by pointing to the problematic of pollinator decline. In his eyes, the project did not only concern public space but also and especially private space – that was the gardens that had turned ‘into stone’. He urged the local spokespersons to cooperate and pressed forward by proposing the next steps for implementation.

The project promoter brought to mind again that they had to want the project, otherwise it would be futile. An elderly local, the chairperson of his village's embellishment and tourism association, joined the discussion by stating that in their village, they were actually quite satisfied with a creek and numerous biotopes. He declared that ‘this LEADER project is not interesting for us, we don't need it’, as a lot had ‘been done already for the environment with EU money’. He complained that they had been left alone with projects initiated elsewhere, as people ‘didn't know what to do with it’ (referring to a village workshop) and that it was now time for the public sector to act. The mayor intervened for a second time, stating that he had the impression that they thought something should be sold to them, but on the contrary, the project promoter would be here to do something good. The project promoter added that it would also be possible to exchange experiences and networks within the project so the experience with the village creek could be passed on to other villages. But the battle was lost when the elderly local declared that this transfer ‘runs totally contrary to how I imagine it to run’. The chairperson opening the discussion endorsed him by stating that he considered it too big a challenge to ‘bring the project into the individual households’ and that ‘one should not overwhelm the people’.

In this situation, the interpretive repertoire of the bottom-up frame serves as a strategic frame of action as well, but the local stakeholders adapted them in a totally different way compared to the example above. Local representatives invoke and drawn upon the idea of local needs and wants. However, the residents’ response oscillates between the oppositional and the negotiated position.

On the one hand, the local caretakers seem to clearly understand the governance rationality behind the bottom-up approach and, in doing so, object to being invoked as ‘active citizens’. Here, local caretakers decide not to become active in the sense of the bottom-up frame – that is, to deploy their social capital for the activation of citizens in their villages to implement the project. When the chairperson of the embellishment association expresses his discomfort about the task of promoting the project vis-à-vis the ‘individual households’ and that ‘one should not overwhelm the people’, he refuses the idea of citizen participation as an overstraining of personal relations and capacities. Hence, we argue that, regarding these responses, the residents decode the bottom-up frame from the oppositional position, objecting its dominant or preferred meaning.

At the same time and regarding other responses, they do not only object to the bottom-up frame but also use it to formulate their own demands – that is, the demand for the municipality to assume responsibility for the maintenance of public space in the village. Hence, they also seem to respond to LEADER's bottom-up frame from a negotiated position, combining ‘adaptive and oppositional elements’ (Hall 1980: 127). This is also the case when another representative refers to previous development projects initiated by the district government. He criticises the fact that they have been left alone with it, leading to an ambiguity regarding their purpose so that ‘people didn't know what to do with it’. In doing so, he applies to the idea of self-responsible and bottom-up development but simultaneously objects to being invoked as an actor within the LEADER programme.

The different actors mobilise the bottom-up frame in both situations as a motivating function (Benford and Snow 2000: 617). It is, thus, used to enter into negotiations and to put demands on the project promoter in the first example and on the public sector in the second example – in this case, to motivate them to act according to their own readings of the bottom-up frame.

Conclusion

In this paper, we have analysed how the interpretive repertoire of LEADER's bottom-up approach is employed, enacted and actualised by the different participants when translated into the local level of EU rural development in Germany. Our analysis has revealed how various actors appropriate the bottom-up frame for different purposes and that it is not undisputedly translated into the local level. Instead, its elements – that is, endogeneity, knowledge transfer or a call for citizen participation – are contested and negotiated on the various levels of governance. At the level of the LAG meetings, our analysis has shown how LEADER's bottom-up frame is employed to regulate the decision procedure of the LAG members. At the level of the meetings between project managers and residents, our analysis has revealed how project promoters employ the bottom-up frame to motivate residents and encourage participation.

Furthermore, we have shown how the residents, in turn, decode the bottom-up frame from a dominant-hegemonic position by adopting its preferred reading and accepting the frame's invocation of residents as self-responsible and active citizens. On the other hand, we have exemplified how residents decode the bottom-up frame, oscillating between the oppositional and the negotiated position, objecting to the project promoter's invocation and, at the same time, utilising the bottom-up frame to formulate their own demands in their own terms. To conclude, LEADER's bottom-up frame is not translated smoothly from the EU governance level to that of local development initiatives; rather, it is adopted, appropriated, reinterpreted and objected to by manifold actors.5

To sum up, the ethnographic perspective on development programmes such as LEADER yields considerable benefit to the analysis of the everyday life implications of policy. As George Marcus has pointed out, the ethnographer's task is to map and nuance the ‘practice of translation’ that ‘connects the several sites … along unexpected and even dissonant fractures of social location’ (1995: 100). Eventually, tracking the translations of LEADER's bottom-up frame ethnographically provides valuable insights into how everyday worlds become implicated in policy worlds.

Acknowledgements

The article is a result of the ongoing project ‘Participative Development of Rural Regions. Everyday Cultural Negotiations of the European Union's LEADER Programme’, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), funding code 322783243.

Notes

1

The ethnographic surveys were carried out by Oliver Müller and Sina Wohlgemuth.

2

We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their thought-provoking comments and constructive criticism.

3

LEADER is a French acronym for ‘Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l'Economie Rurale’, meaning an integrated approach to developing rural economies.

4

Although this article focuses on the discursive elements of LEADER, we also examine the material practices elsewhere, as we also consider them to be central elements for making policies ‘work’.

5

We want to point out that, despite the bottom-up rhetoric, LEADER (re)produces existing power relations by favouring those groups with high levels of social and cultural capital. All the boards and the composition of the LAGs examined expose a strong gender bias, as they draw on local structures and forms of political representation historically dominated by men. Although women partake in development activities, their contribution is made rather invisible (Shortall 2008). Therefore, greater attention should be paid to processes and mechanisms of exclusion, which might come in the disguise of self-exclusion on behalf of those already marginalised. In doing so, the exclusionary effects of policies that relegate responsibility for individual and community well-being to the local level can be better understood.

References

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    • Crossref
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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marcus, G. E. (1995), ‘Ethnography in/of the World System. The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography’, Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 95117. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.24.100195.000523

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCann, E. and K. Ward (2012), ‘Assembling Urbanism: Following Policies and ‘Studying Through’ the Sites and Situations of Policy Making’, Environment and Planning 44: 4251.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (ed.) (2016), NRW-Programm Ländlicher Raum 2014–2020: Förderung der ländlichen Entwicklung in Nordrhein-Westfalen [NRW-Program Rural Areas 2014–2020: Promoting Rural Development in Northrhine-Westphalia] (Bonn: Brandt GmbH), https://www.umwelt.nrw.de/fileadmin/redaktion/Broschueren/laendlicher_raum_nrw_programm_broschuere.pdf (accessed 2 August 2019).

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  • Navarro, F. A., M. Woods and E. Cejudo (2016), ‘The LEADER Initiative Has Been a Victim of Its Own Success: The Decline of the Bottom-Up Approach in Rural Development Programmes. The Cases of Wales and Andalusia’, Sociologia Ruralis 56, no. 2: 27089.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pollermann, K., P. Raue and G. Schnaut (2012), ‘Partizipation im ländlichen Raum: das Beispiel LEADER’, Raumplanung 160, no. 1: 4143.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Polletta, F. and P. C. B. Chen (2012), ‘Narrative and Social Movements’, in J. C. Alexander, R. Jacobs and P. Smith (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press), 487506.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ray, C. (1997), ‘Towards a Theory of the Dialectic of Local Rural Development within the European Union’, Sociologia Ruralis 37, no. 3: 34562.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rose, N. (2006), ‘Governing “Advanced” Liberal Democracies’, in A. Sharma and A. Gupta (eds), The Anthropology of the State (Malden: Blackwell), 14462.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shore, C. (2010), ‘From a Political Anthropology to an Anthropology of Policy: Interview with Cris Shore’, Etnográfica 14: 595614.

  • Shore, C. and S. Wright (2011), ‘Conceptionalising Policy: Technologies of Governance and the Politics of Visibility’, in C. Shore, S. Wright and D. Però (eds), Policy Worlds: Anthropology and the Analysis of Contemporary Power (New York: Berghahn), 125.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Snow, D. A. and R. D. Benford (1992), ‘Master Frames and Cycles of Protest’, in A. D. Morris and C. McClurg Mueller (eds), Frontiers in Social Movement Theory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), 13355.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Strathern, M. (2000), Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics and the Academy (London: Routledge).

  • Tsing, A. L. (2005), Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

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    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vicari, S. (2010), ‘Measuring Collective Action Frames: A Linguistic Approach to Frame Analysis’, POETICS 38: 50425.

  • Welz, G. (2018): ‘Assembling Halloumi: Contesting the EU's Food Quality Label Policy in the Republic of Cyprus’, in J. Forney, C. Rosin and H. Campbell (eds), Agri-Environmental Governance as an Assemblage: Multiplicity, Power, and Transformation (New York and London: Routledge), 7690.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Woods, M. (2005), ‘Rural Development, Globalization and European Regional Policy: Perspectives from the Derreg Project’, Geographica Polonica 86, no. 2: 99109.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Woods, M. (2011), Rural (New York: Routledge), 13059.

  • Wright, S. and S. Reinhold (2011), ‘“Studying Through”: A Strategy for Studying Political Transformation: Or Sex, Lies and British Politics’, in C. Shore, S. Wright and D. Però (eds), Policy Worlds: Anthropology and the Analysis of Contemporary Power (New York: Berghahn Books), 86104.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Contributor Notes

Oliver Müller, Department of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Bonn, Germany. E-mail: omueller@uni-bonn.de

Ove Sutter, Department of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Bonn, Germany. E-mail: ove.sutter@uni-bonn.de

Sina Wohlgemuth, Department of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Bonn, Germany. E-mail: sina.wohlgemuth@uni-bonn.de

Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

(formerly: Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures)

  • Adam, J. and A. Vonderau (2014), ‘Formation des Politischen: Überlegungen zu einer Anthropologie Politischer Felder’, in J. Adam and A. Vonderau (eds), Formationen des Politischen. Anthropologie politischer Felder (Bielefeld: Transcript), 732.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Adell, N., M. Tauschek, R. F. Bendix and C. Bortolotto (2015), Between Imagined Communities and Communities of Practice – Participation, Territory and the Making of Heritage (Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen).

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bateson, G. (1972), Steps to an Ecology of Mind (Philadelphia: Intext).

  • Benford, R. D. and D. A. Snow (2000), ‘Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment’, Annual Review of Sociology 26: 61139.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bosworth, G., I. Annibal, T. Carroll, L. Price, J. Sellick and J. Shepherd (2015), ‘Empowering Local Action through Neo-endogenous Development: The Case of LEADER in England’, Sociologia Ruralis 56, no. 3: 42748. https://doi.org/10.1111/soru.12089

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bourdieu, P. (1990), The Logic of Practice (Cambridge: Polity Press).

  • Clarke, J., D. Bainton, N. Lendvai and P. Stubbs (2015), Making Policy Move:Towards a Politics of Translation and Assemblage (Bristol: Policy Press).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Commission (1996), ‘The Cork Declaration’, LEADER Magazine 13: 12.

  • European Commission (2006), Fact Sheet: The LEADER Approach – A Basic Guide (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Commission (2014), ‘Guidance on Community-Led Local Development in European Structural and Investment Funds’ (European Commission).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Court of Auditors (2010), Special Report No. 5. Implementation of the LEADER Approach for Rural Development (Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gieling, J. and T. Haartsen (2017), ‘Liveable Villages: The Relationship between Volunteering and Liveability in the Perceptions of Rural Residents’, Sociologia Ruralis 57, no. 51: 57697.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Goffman, E. (1974), Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

  • Goffman, E. (1956), The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Edinburgh: Social Sciences Research Centre).

  • Grabski-Kieron, U. (2016), ‘Politik im und für den Ländlichen Raum’, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 66, no. 46–47: 2328.

  • Hall, S. (1980), ‘Encoding/Decoding’, in S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe and P. Willis (eds), Culture, Media, Language (London: Routledge), 11728.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hall, S. (1994), ‘Reflections upon the Encoding/Decoding Model: An Interview with Stuart Hall’, in J. Cruz and J. Lewis (eds), Viewing, Reading, Listening: Audiences and Cultural Reception (Oxford: Westview Press), 25374.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hess, S. (2014), ‘Das Regieren der Migration als Wissensbasierte Netzwerkpolitik Eine Ethnografische Policy-Analyse des International Centre for Migration Policy Development’, in J. Adam and A. Vonderau (eds), Formationen des Politischen Anthropologie Politischer Felder (Bielefeld: Transcript), 26192.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horlings, L. G. and Marsden, T. K. (2014), ‘Exploring the “New Rural Paradigm” in Europe: Eco-Economic Strategies as a Counterforce to the Global Competitiveness Agenda’, European Urban and Regional Studies 21, no. 1: 420.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Høst, J. E. (2016), ‘Changing Rural Paradigms: Rural Ethnology between State Interest and Local Activism’, Ethnologia Scandinavica 46: 12441.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johler, R. (2001), ‘“Wir müssen Landschaft produzieren”. Die Europäische Union und ihre ‘Politics of Landscape and Nature’’, in R. W. Brednich, A. Schneider and U. Werner (eds), Natur – Kultur: Volkskundliche Perspektiven auf Mensch und Umwelt (Münster: Waxman), 7790.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Keller, R. (2011), Wissenssoziologische Diskursanalyse: Grundlegung eines Forschungsprogramms (Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften).

  • Kockel, U. (2002), Regional Culture and Economic Development: Explorations in European Ethnology (Burlington: Ashgate).

  • Lathrop, S., G. Feldmann, C. Shore and J. R. Wedel (2005), ‘Toward an Anthropology of Public Policy’, ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 600: 3051.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marcus, G. E. (1995), ‘Ethnography in/of the World System. The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography’, Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 95117. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.24.100195.000523

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCann, E. and K. Ward (2012), ‘Assembling Urbanism: Following Policies and ‘Studying Through’ the Sites and Situations of Policy Making’, Environment and Planning 44: 4251.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (ed.) (2016), NRW-Programm Ländlicher Raum 2014–2020: Förderung der ländlichen Entwicklung in Nordrhein-Westfalen [NRW-Program Rural Areas 2014–2020: Promoting Rural Development in Northrhine-Westphalia] (Bonn: Brandt GmbH), https://www.umwelt.nrw.de/fileadmin/redaktion/Broschueren/laendlicher_raum_nrw_programm_broschuere.pdf (accessed 2 August 2019).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Navarro, F. A., M. Woods and E. Cejudo (2016), ‘The LEADER Initiative Has Been a Victim of Its Own Success: The Decline of the Bottom-Up Approach in Rural Development Programmes. The Cases of Wales and Andalusia’, Sociologia Ruralis 56, no. 2: 27089.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pollermann, K., P. Raue and G. Schnaut (2012), ‘Partizipation im ländlichen Raum: das Beispiel LEADER’, Raumplanung 160, no. 1: 4143.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Polletta, F. and P. C. B. Chen (2012), ‘Narrative and Social Movements’, in J. C. Alexander, R. Jacobs and P. Smith (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press), 487506.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ray, C. (1997), ‘Towards a Theory of the Dialectic of Local Rural Development within the European Union’, Sociologia Ruralis 37, no. 3: 34562.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rose, N. (2006), ‘Governing “Advanced” Liberal Democracies’, in A. Sharma and A. Gupta (eds), The Anthropology of the State (Malden: Blackwell), 14462.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shore, C. (2010), ‘From a Political Anthropology to an Anthropology of Policy: Interview with Cris Shore’, Etnográfica 14: 595614.

  • Shore, C. and S. Wright (2011), ‘Conceptionalising Policy: Technologies of Governance and the Politics of Visibility’, in C. Shore, S. Wright and D. Però (eds), Policy Worlds: Anthropology and the Analysis of Contemporary Power (New York: Berghahn), 125.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shortall, S. (2008), ‘Are Rural Development Programmes Socially Inclusive? Social Inclusion, Civic Engagement, Participation, and Social Capital: Exploring the Differences’, Journal of Rural Studies 24, no. 4: 45057.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Snow, D. A. and R. D. Benford (1992), ‘Master Frames and Cycles of Protest’, in A. D. Morris and C. McClurg Mueller (eds), Frontiers in Social Movement Theory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), 13355.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Strathern, M. (2000), Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics and the Academy (London: Routledge).

  • Tsing, A. L. (2005), Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

  • Van der Ploeg, J. D., H. Renting, G. Brunori, K. Knickel, J. Mannion, T. Marsden, K. De Roest, E. Sevilla-Guzmán and F. Ventura (2000), ‘Rural Development: From Practices and Policies towards Theory’, Sociologia Ruralis 40, no. 4: 391408.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vicari, S. (2010), ‘Measuring Collective Action Frames: A Linguistic Approach to Frame Analysis’, POETICS 38: 50425.

  • Welz, G. (2018): ‘Assembling Halloumi: Contesting the EU's Food Quality Label Policy in the Republic of Cyprus’, in J. Forney, C. Rosin and H. Campbell (eds), Agri-Environmental Governance as an Assemblage: Multiplicity, Power, and Transformation (New York and London: Routledge), 7690.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Woods, M. (2005), ‘Rural Development, Globalization and European Regional Policy: Perspectives from the Derreg Project’, Geographica Polonica 86, no. 2: 99109.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Woods, M. (2011), Rural (New York: Routledge), 13059.

  • Wright, S. and S. Reinhold (2011), ‘“Studying Through”: A Strategy for Studying Political Transformation: Or Sex, Lies and British Politics’, in C. Shore, S. Wright and D. Però (eds), Policy Worlds: Anthropology and the Analysis of Contemporary Power (New York: Berghahn Books), 86104.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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