Going local. Addressing territorial inequalities from the ground
Date: 20 Jun, 2023

EXIT conducts an in-depth analysis of the concept of ‘left-behind’ in the academic, political, and media spheres, as it is used in the characterisation of territorial inequalities faced by certain areas in the Global North. This means not only building knowledge on the drivers of inequality in areas that are experiencing territorial inequality in economic terms, but also on what drives political, media and academic characterisations of some of these areas as ‘left-behind’ and how this relates to experiences and perceptions of being ‘left-behind’ among inhabitants of areas experiencing socioeconomic stagnation or decline.

Addressing how different axes of inequality intersect in perceptions and experiences of ‘left-behindness’ is crucial to understand the gap between the development of policies aimed at redressing territorial inequalities and their impact on the ground. In this regard, EXIT takes a place-based approach to delineate the role of different forces, and how they interplay to produce uneven effects among communities. This is achieved by defining a limited number of areas of study in each participant country for an in-depth analysis. The selection of the areas has been conducted through the combination of criteria drawn from the extensive literature on territorial inequality and more recent analysis of certain areas as ‘left-behind’. This has led to the delimitation of 17 areas across six Member States, one accession country (Serbia) and the UK, including rural areas, post-industrial areas, and urban peripheries.

To establish and maintain this bridge between academic analysis, political intent, and experience, EXIT implements a bottom-up, interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research with a community-based and intersectional approach from the analysis to the transferability of practices. This will be done through applying territorially embedded ethnographic methodologies, such as walking interviews. In a walking interview the researcher wanders alongside participants around a certain location in order “to explore the link between self and place” (Evans and Jones, 2011). These will be combined with other methods such as the ‘photo voice’ method – a technique that asks participants to take pictures, in this case, of the area they inhabit and their experiences of living in it – or geolocation – which allows to draw maps around certain research axis. Local communities will also be engaged throughout the project with workshops with researchers and policymakers by analysing research results and key policies.

Furthermore, the project involves state-of-the-art quantitative data analysis to assess and investigate territorial inequalities at the local level, that can compare different variables at a municipal or even neighborhood level, thus shedding light on specific local factors, by introducing a new perspective about what is relevant to particular places (as opposed to regions at large) to reduce inequalities. The combination of these methods will also allow research teams to account for the inner heterogeneity of areas experiencing territorial inequality, leading to more effective policymaking that does not forget to consider society-wide inequalities from a geographical and territorial perspective.

Author: Alèxia Rué, Universitat de Barcelona

References: Evans, J., & Jones, P. (2011). The walking interview: Methodology, mobility and place. Applied Geography, 31(2), 849-858.

Read more:

A way to fight territorial inequalities: inclusive mobility

A way to fight territorial inequalities: inclusive mobility

The EXIT project, funded by the European Union's Horizon Europe programme, explores sustainable strategies for tackling territorial inequalities using an intersectional approach. It uses mixed research methods to comprehensively analyse the concept of 'being left...

EXIT launches its interactive map

EXIT launches its interactive map

As we delve deeper into our current fieldwork, our aim is to unravel territorial inequalities as they are experienced and negotiated on the ground. The selection of cases is a cornerstone of this research endeavour. A critical decision, it shapes the trajectory of our...