An Intergenerational Ethnography on Rural Images of Longing

Departing from the photography collection of the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art – one of a kind in Europe – the research project “Stadt-Land-Kind” investigated the myth of a better life on the countryside from an intergenerational perspective. In a dialogue with scientists, students research prevalent urban-rural constructions and the corresponding productions of images and meaning in an exchange with (grand-)parent generations.

Which images do we use to “write” our history of the countryside? And which social constructs and (future) promises are negotiated in these images? The objective, on the one hand, was to deconstruct conventional notions of authenticity, utilized today in images of the countryside by touristic, product, and political branding. On the other hand, the project aimed to update memories of rural Austria through a) the critical investigation of historically and culturally constructed motifs of longing, b) the generation of new multiperspectival images, and c) collective exhibition.

This transdisciplinary approach weaved strands of visual and sensory ethnography, research into design and everyday life, and museology into a profitable and fruitful constellation. Intergenerational focus groups with picture talks, research postcards, and photo expeditions employed in the ethnographic research process with the students for an active-reflexive image production. While the sciences benefited from the analysis and updating of the visual and material cultures together with the population, the impetus for educational policy resided in the exploration of an open concept of Heimat and the enhancement of visual literacies with school children and their families. In addition to accompanying workshops, the project was open to the public in a final exhibition at the Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art in Vienna.

This project had a Top Citizen Science-extension project.

In the project „Stadt – Land – Bild. A Social Image Analysis of Contemporary Conceptions of Longing“ citizen scientists reflected upon urban-rural sentimental and ideological constructions of longing so as to made a contribution to an open conception of Heimat (“home”).

This project has been completed.