Tropical Geography ›› 2022, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (8): 1314-1323.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003534

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The Conceptual Framework and a Comparative Study of "the Right to the Village" in the Search for Spatial Justice

Yangui Dai(), Kai Zhou()   

  1. School of Architecture and Planning, Hunan University, Changsha 410006, China
  • Received:2021-07-26 Revised:2021-11-17 Online:2022-08-05 Published:2022-08-24
  • Contact: Kai Zhou;


The concept of "the right to the village (RTV)" is a recent extension of the Spatial Justice theory, i.e., the right to the city in particular, into the rural context, which critically reveals and investigates the deprivation of spatial rights in the allocation of spatial resources (mainly land) and the production of rural spaces. By adopting the critical perspective of radical geographers, this study conceptualizes the RTV through focusing on power struggles in the possessing of "rural land" and in the defense and redefining of "villagers' identity". This study was based on a review of the case studies of countries in the Global South, i.e., Tunisia, India, and Lebanon, as well as those of countries in the Global North, i.e., Great Britain, France, and Italy. Firstly, the study critically examined the difficult situations of villagers in maintaining their production system, living environment, and state-of-mind in expanding urban territory and mindset, using the term "forced depeasantization". Secondly, it explored the individual or collective struggles of villagers in the search for spatial justice, which was termed "voluntary repeasantization", including actively striving for land rights and interests using formal or informal means and silently guarding their identity as farmers explicitly and implicitly. By comparing available case studies, analysis revealed that the forced depeasantization in the Global South and Global North share one common aspect, in which the essence of all is the deprivation of rural land and villagers' identity caused by capitalist exploitation. Meanwhile, their experiences are different in terms of voluntary repeasantization adopted in contexts. In the Global South, villagers choose to demonstrate their "rights" through legal channels or extreme ways, while in the Global North, villagers assert their "rights" by relying on top-down national policy and bottom-up local capacity-building. Thirdly, this study summarized the theoretical framework of the RTV, which lays out the three pillars of the RTV, which are "appropriation" (the right to own land and carry out agricultural production), "inhabitation" (the right to live in the countryside in the villagers' lifestyle), and "participation" (the right to decide whether to quit agriculture) of rural spaces. Last, but not least, this study attempted to apply the RTV to domestic rural issues. The findings suggest that, in China, the guarantee of top-down national policy is the most important way to seek spatial justice in rural areas. However, villagers' rights to appropriate, inhabit, and participate in rural development are just as important as anywhere else in the revitalization of rural China. Therefore, it is advised that knowledge sharing, community learning, and participatory decision-making should be emphasized in rural policy, as key practical methods to embody the farmers' principal position in the process.

Key words: spatial justice, right to the village, rural revitalization, farmers' principal position, forced depeasantization, voluntary repeasantization

CLC Number: 

  • F323