Module Catalogue 2019/20

SOC3098 : Community and Conflict in the Countryside

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ruth McAreavey
  • Lecturer: Professor Sally Shortall
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This course is about contemporary rural society. It will provide students with an understanding of sociological issues of power, community and conflict that arise in rural areas. The main focus is on Ireland and the UK but the course also considers the countryside in an international perspective. To reflect the breadth of rural studies the course will examine debates about a range of current issues in rural areas that will include agriculture and industrial change, land ownership, community and inheritance. The contested views on what land should be used for (production, consumption, preservation) and the power of the associated lobby groups will also be considered. Students will be expected to critically engage with the way in which agrarian change has underpinned the more fundamental changes that have taken place in rural areas. This is manifest in a range of topics which will be examined by the students and may include industrial change and agrarian politics, sociological theories of agriculture, class and modernisation, landuse management, women in agriculture, migrants in agriculture, community planning and state policy and agriculture.

The module aims are:

•       To explore the meaning of rural society and to introduce students to sociological understandings of rural society
•       To develop students’ critical awareness of different contestations of the countryside
•       To explore the relevance of class, ethnicity, gender, the role of the state, and power struggles within a rural context.

Outline Of Syllabus

We start by introducing students to the concepts of rural and community before examining the significance of industrialisation and agrarian society in rural debates. The course moves on to examine changes in rural society including questions relating to land ownership from historical and contemporary contexts. The rest of the module will build on these foundations to address classic sociological questions of equality, gender, race and power by considering topics such as farm safety; community participation and governance; inheritance and land rights; migrants and precarious labour; and the role of local, national and international bodies. A number of these issues are particularly topical and will include debates on Brexit, refugees and international migration. Students will be encouraged throughout the course to engage in these contemporary debates.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of the course students will
•       have a sociological perspective on agrarian change, and the concept of ‘rural’
•       have an awareness of how rural areas are not a place apart, and sociological concepts of class, gender issues, the role of the state, and power struggles are just as relevant in a rural context.
•       be able to engage in contemporary debates involving rural society and rural issues.
•       Have an understanding of the complexity of debates between environmental lobby groups, agricultural producers, planners, and conservation groups

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of the module students should be equipped with the following transferable skills:

Intellectual skills
•       Analyse, evaluate, synthesise and interpret information from diverse sources and present in a coherent fashion
•       Develop and defend reasoned opinions
•       Develop and demonstrate independent and critical thinking

Employability Skills (Practical skills transferable into employment):      
•       Communication skills through participation in group discussions, presentations and class feedback sessions; via written assignments
•       Information and communication technology: searching and obtaining information; entering and processing data; and presenting information
•       Improving own learning and performance: demonstrating independence while learning; and reviewing progress and achievements
•       Problem solving: identifying a problem; exploring options; selecting an appropriate solution; use of appropriate resources; and synthesis, critical analysis, and interpretation of information

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion160:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:009 lectures on campus, 1 lecture at University farm (as part of field trip)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1104:00104:00Includes background reading and preparation for field trip and seminars.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Series of 6 seminars to complement field trip event and lectures.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops23:006:00Workshop 1: movie & debate; Workshop 2: policy talk, assessment surgery & informal feedback.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork14:004:00Lunch, tour of farm and debate on rural society and land ownership
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures provide students with key concepts and ideas within rural studies and which will provide a foundation to the course overall. The course has been designed to ensure a breadth of teaching methods and so lectures are complemented by a field trip, seminars and various workshops. A field trip to the University’s farm will provide the opportunity for students to probe more deeply into some of the underpinning themes of the module through a site visit, a guest lecture and during a class debate held during that event. These themes will be further explored in more depth during seminars. During one workshop student will view a relevant film (e.g. on land ownership, migrant farm labour) and will follow up in a class debate critiquing emerging issues. A second workshop will be a dedicated session available to the whole class for assessment, feedback and guidance on formal assessment requirements. This second workshop will provide an opportunity for students to be given detailed instructions together, to be followed up with individual feedback as per student demand.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M602500 words
Written exercise1M40Policy brief - 1500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay will assess the development of sociological knowledge of rural society and critical engagement with this subject. The use of case studies and examples will be encouraged as a means to test the students’ understanding of contemporary issues in rural studies.
The policy brief will test students’ awareness of a diverse interest groups and of distinct positions within rural society. It will test their ability to orientate their message to specific groups, to distil key arguments and to make a persuasive case about a relevant issue within rural studies.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2019/20 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2020/21 entry will be published here in early-April 2019. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.