Emptiness and educational imaginaries in small or isolated rural communities that experienced permanent school closures

This project, led by Professor Alis Oancea and involving Dr Mariela Neagu and Arzhia Habibi, pilots digital and remote ethnographic educational research in rural areas affected by demographic change where permanent school closures occurred.

Emptying—the disappearance or radical reconfiguration of material and social relations that constitute a place (due to demographic change, migration, economic situation, COVID etc)—is an increasingly common global phenomenon.

The project aims to describe how small or isolated rural communities and individuals in places that are ’emptying’ continue to live and become after permanent school closures – in order to understand and theorise the different senses of emptiness at play and their material, social and cultural entanglements.

The empty school buildings, objects emptied of function, and lost routines and calendars, together with the disappearance of part of the local labour market and community services and support network, do not only open a keenly perceived material and social hiatus within the community, but school closures also transform its rhythms, aesthetics, self-understandings and imaginaries.

The project benefits from collaboration with a large European Research Council (ERC) anthropological study of emptiness, which focuses on communities, migration and culture (https://emptiness.eu/).