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(De)politicising the local: The case of the Transition Towns movement in Flanders (Belgium)

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Anneleen Kenis, Erik Mathijs

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-183
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Volume34
Early online date25 Feb 2014
DOIs
E-pub ahead of print25 Feb 2014
PublishedApr 2014

King's Authors

Abstract

As a reaction against global problems such as climate change and peak oil, localisation movements gathered renewed momentum during the last decade. Prominent amongst these is Transition Towns, a movement which advocates the development of resilient local communities to deal with these challenges in an adequate way. On the basis of extensive qualitative research of the movement's rise in Flanders (Belgium), this article studies the way Transition Towns represents the local. It shows that the movement is vulnerable for what has been called the ‘local trap’, and argues that the latter should actually be conceived as a post-political trap. The representation of the local is depoliticised when it conceals the fact that it is always a hegemonic construction which inevitably entails exclusions and the exercise of power. Drawing on post-foundational political theory, this article not only provides a novel interpretation of Transition Towns, but also aims to recast the ongoing localisation debate by showing that post-politics represents a fundamental problem for it. At the same time, however, the political can never be completely abolished, but always comes back with a vengeance. This ambiguity and complexity are central to this article's analysis of how Transition Towns deals with the local and the political.

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