Institute of European Ethnology
Precarious arrangements? Strategies of work and the conduct of life in peripheralized rural areas in Western Bohemia.
The project explores present forms of every-day life and the securing of livelihood in rural Czech Republic. Through extensive field-research the topic is exemplarily studied on the inhabitants of several neighbouring rural communities in Western Bohemia. All villages belong to the former Sudetenland. Since the incomplete resettlement after the eviction of the German speaking population following WWII, the region is strongly affected by processes of peripheralization, precarisation and population decrease. Until the end of socialism the region was dominated by agricultural production and a high rate of local employment. Currently the local population is facing the expansion of the low-wage employment sector, the declining accessibility of public services and labour, a massive brain-drain and an ongoing social fragmentation.
Applying a broader concept of work which includes reproductive work and subsistence production as well as formal and informal employment in and outside the region, the project explores how the local actors individually and collectively perceive and respond to the ongoing precarisation of their living conditions and the steadily increasing migration pressure: Which ‘strategies of survival’ do they develop? On which resources and self-images are those practices based? Which cultural, social and emotional function do they fulfil?
At the same time the growing digitalization and mobility, the financial support for ‘problematic’ rural areas, flexible labour regimes and the collective imagination of rural life brings new actors to the villages. In which aspects does this process contribute to probing new ways of making one’s living? In which way does the increasing social differentiation also lead to new conflicts over the distribution of resources and brings about shifts of power between actors?
The research aims to explore the transformations and continuities of every-day practices, cultural patterns of meanings and the scopes of shaping one’s life in rural societies of highly industrialized, post-socialist states. Particular attention is paid to the interplay of socio-economic, spatial and symbolic factors in shaping the local actors’ individual life-chances as well as their collective modes of self-conception. On an applied-level the deep insights into one Central European region can help to better understand the cultural and social effects of peripheralization, precarisation and population exchange on rural communities. This knowledge can contribute to create and improve concepts for the development of peripheralized rural areas and to find strategies to counteract tendencies of social disintegration in similarly structured rural areas.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Irene Götz