Knaps, Falco; Herrmann, Sylvia: Analyzing Cultural Markers to Characterize Regional Identity for Rural Planning. In: Rural Landscapes: Society, Environment, History 5 (2018), Nr. 1, 1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/rl.41
Regional identity is the shared sense of regional ‘one-ness’, distinctiveness and difference. However, it is an undervalued factor to promote development in lagging rural areas and little is known about methods to reveal its content. This paper aims to develop and apply a method to explore regional identity in rural areas. We argue that the most important cultural markers – understood as rural landscapes and heritage features, perceived as regional identity reference points – can be analyzed and used to characterize regional identity. To this end, a case study was undertaken in two rural areas in northern Germany. We conducted 55 semi-structured interviews and determined cultural markers, using a new procedure with different analysis stages (identification, collectivity, historical depth, relationships). Results revealed a broad spectrum of cultural markers exhibiting collective significance with respect to landscape, built structures, history, intangible heritage and land-use. Next to traditional cultural markers, we found modern ones, introduced after the Second World War. Partially, traditional and modern cultural markers were perceived as related. Based on this knowledge, a first characterization of both regional identities was conducted, showing differences between our study areas. While one regional identity appears to be fragmented, conflicting and influenced by modern cultural markers, the other was characterized as coherent and rooted in traditional cultural markers. However, the integration of these characterizations into further planning steps remains challenging and needs additional, regionally adapted methods. A key finding of the study is that there is no single standard method for linking regional identity and rural planning.
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