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A ‘Post-productive’ countryside? An Exploration of New Industrial Zones and Their [Dis]connections to Agricultural Communities in Rural Areas of Taiwan and the UK

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Riley
    Prof W Lee
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Context and aims
In the last 20 years there has been a burgeoning academic literature focussing on what has been termed the ‘post-productive transition’ (e.g. Wilson 2001) in the countryside associated with a number of drivers including agricultural and environmental policy changes, the financial precariousness of the farming industry, and a number of food scares and animal health concerns. This idea of a productivist/post-productivist transition has been critiqued both conceptually in relation to its binary limitations and also empirically for underplaying geographical variations in its supposed nature and extent (Burton and Wilson 2012). Developed largely in UK and European contexts, questions have been raised around the concept’s applicability to other parts of the world, where political, historical and geographical differences mean that such a transition may have occurred in spatially and temporally different ways. Two key authors in this debate, for example, cite the case of Taiwan, noting that it has “gone through an agrarian transition…and yet has emerged looking far from post-productivist in the classic UK-centric sense” (Wilson and Rigg 2003, p.686). A common characteristic between the UK and Taiwan is that they have both witnessed an increased neo-liberalisation of their agricultural sectors in recent years which has had two material impacts: 1) An increasingly ‘multifunctional’ countryside (after Wilson 2007) – that is, the growing use of rural space for non-agricultural/production purposes; 2) A growth in pluriactivity – i.e. an increase in farmers’ non-farming activities and non-farming income. Such developments have been seen as a positive mode of rural development by both the UK and Taiwanese governments – considered as a way to boost the rural economy and increase the economic resilience of farming communities. Whilst research in both the UK and Taiwan has focussed on cases where these new forms of activity run alongside agriculture - such as rural and farm tourism – there has been little attention given to new developments such as industrial parks and industrial zones which do not have an agricultural/land-use focus (see Lee, 2013). Sat within the wider discussion of a productivist/post-productivist transition the aim of this project is to explore the impact of rural industrial parks/zones on former agricultural communities and has three main objectives:

1) To explore the nature and extent of a post-productive transition in the UK and Taiwan and to examine the geographical variations in this between the two countries.
2) To examine the role industrial zones and industrial parks play in the multifunctional countryside.
3) To investigate how these industrial zones impact upon, and intersect with, the agriculture communities they sit alongside (or replace).

Methods and scheme of work
The study will focus on two case study areas – the Coshui and Tatu Rivers valleys in Taiwan and rural Merseyside and Cheshire, UK. The first part of the study will be desk-based and will involve reviewing the extent literature on the productivist transition and rural multifunctionality. The student will draw on governmental policy documents, agricultural statistics, rural census data and previously published studies in order to conceptualise the extent to which the case study areas can be seen as ‘post-productive’ and how they might fit in Wilson’s (2007) spectrum of multifunctionality. In doing so the study will add much needed empirical data to these theorisations, specifically from an East Asian context (objective 1). Objective 2 will involve a survey of the nature of the industrial zones drawing on planning applications and development proposals and a questionnaire survey of businesses within these zones. This will culminate in the development of a typology of zone types (depending on their level of integration within the surrounding rural communities). Alongside this, it will facilitate the selection of specific zones which will be focussed on for the in-depth qualitative aspects of the study. Objective 3 will involve the use of in-depth qualitative interviews (after Riley 2010, Riley 2014) with farmers in the areas surrounding the industrial zones. These interviews will focus on their attitudes towards these zones, the extent to which they have aided or been detrimental to their farming enterprise and their perspectives on the future of agriculture in the area. The project will involve two 16 month periods spent at Tsing Hua University and a 16 month period at the University of Liverpool.

The funding for this programme covers tuition fees and a contribution to living expenses of $10,000 New Taiwanese Dollars per month.


Burton, R. J. F. and G. A. Wilson (2012). "The Rejuvenation of Productivist Agriculture: The Case for ‘Cooperative Neo-Productivism’."

Calleja, E., et al. (2012). "Agricultural change and the rise of the British strawberry industry, 1920–2009." Journal of Rural Studies.

Chuang, S. T. (2013). "Residents' attitudes toward rural tourism in Taiwan: A comparative viewpoint." International Journal of Tourism Research 15(2): 152-170.

Francks, P., et al. (1999). Agriculture and economic development in East Asia: from growth to protectionism in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. London, Routeledge.

Wei-I, LEE (2013) Between Industry and Agriculture: the case of Chosui and Tatu Rivers Valleys - Tracing the Local Industrial Zones and Invisible Factories. Paper presented in Annual Conference of Taiwan Science, Technology and Society Association, National Taiwan University, March 24.

Riley, M. (2010). "Emplacing the Research Encounter: Exploring Farm Life Histories." Qualitative Inquiry 16(8): 651-662.

Riley, M. (2014). "Interviewing fathers and sons together: Exploring the potential of joint interviews for research on family farms." Journal of Rural Studies 36: 237-246.

Wilson, G. (2001). "From productivism to post-productivism ... and back again? Exploring the (un)changed natural and mental landscapes of European agriculture." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26(1): 77-102.

Wilson, G. (2007). Multifunctional agriculture: a transition theory perspective, CABI Publishing.

Wilson, G. A. and J. Rigg (2003). "'Post-productivist' agricultural regimes and the South: Discordant concepts?" Progress in Human Geography 27(6): 681-707.

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