By: A. Cristina de la Vega-Leinert, Julia Kieslinger, Marcela Jiménez-Moreno, and Cornelia Steinhäuser
What is the main purpose of your study? Our research brings together perspectives from four independently conducted studies in rural Latin America, namely Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico. We use participatory methods to explore questions about how young people perceive their lives in rural places; what motivates them to leave and/or stay; and how their choices affect their families, communities, and landscapes. This paper is a contribution towards an improved understanding of young people’s needs and aspirations that are rarely given an arena to express their perceptions, concerns and demands. We thereby aim to encourage such young people’s inclusion in future research on sustainability pathways.
What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study? Our work argues that it is not sufficient to consider young people as critical actors in sustainability transitions. Rather it is key to understand how they individually and as part of a family and community relate to their countryside and see their present life and future. Further it is important to support young people with (im)mobility choices, and respect them, as well as to provide the means young people require to shape the countryside they need and want. Finally, our work highlights how diverse and multi-facetted young people’s perceptions and visions of the future of the countryside are, encouraging us to move away from reductive, often dichotomic views.
How does your study relate to other work on the subject? Our article adds to the existing body of literature regarding the lives and experiences of young people in rural places and their role in shaping the future of the countryside(s), particularly in the Global South. This relates to a variety of research areas that reflect on the future of agriculture, traditional livelihoods and biocultural patrimony, as well as sustainability transitions. Given our qualitative, bottom-up approach to these subjects, our work contrasts with, but may also be complementary to, quantitative or more generalistic approaches to “rural youths”. The findings of our case studies are applicable to studies of young people’s sustainability strategies, their visions, needs, and demands for fulfilling lives, and the vitality of livelihoods in rural areas as a whole.
There is a growing area of enquiry dedicated to experiences of children and young people in migration contexts, which explores their perspectives as stayers and migrants. Our research contributes to a better understanding of their views and how these influence decision making on leaving and staying as well as related meanings of places.
Methodologically, this article encourages a change in practice in empirical research involving young people. This also has practical implications for how young people are perceived in their respective contexts (e.g. school and communities), because young people become direct interlocutors and to a certain extent partners in the research process.
What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study? Despite the different regional contexts and conceptual framings of our research, we identified many coincidences on our participants’ visions. In particular, hybrid visions, which we named “living in between”, blend aspects of living in rural and urban places and take multiple forms in a continuum and are dynamic in place and time.
What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study? Despite the different regional contexts and conceptual framings of our research, we identified many coincidences on our participants’ visions. In particular, hybrid visions, which we named “living in between”, blend aspects of living in rural and urban places and take multiple forms in a continuum and are dynamic in place and time.
How does your research help us think about Geography? Our research makes a contribution to the field of children’s geographies by exploring how children and young people conceptualise and relate to the rural places they live in, but also to imaginary places where they project themselves in the future, whether these are the current place of living or destinations where they wish to move to. Further, we argue that children and young people play a crucial role in the overall construction of rural places, which we understand as the product of social activity.