ESR4: (Re-)Inventing the Rurban: Progressive and alternative spaces of work in peripheral communities in Central and Eastern Europe

Host: Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig, Germany, Supervisor: Thilo Lang

1 PhD position, full-time.

Duration: September 2021 – August 2024

New forms of work and their spatial organisation are typically tested, explored and implemented in urban contexts. The urban is in this context often portrayed as an inspiring environment for all sorts of social innovations. This ESR-project focuses instead on new imaginations and visions of new and alternative CWS in rural, peripheral, structurally weak and remote areas. Urbanity thus should be developed as a deterritorialised concept reflecting the urbanisation of societies as a whole and linking up to ideas of habitual urbanity and planetary urbanism. The project tackles practical approaches of such new visions and imaginations, and their links to strategies and actually implemented projects outside of the bigger agglomerations. Overall, the project challenges dominant representations of the urban and suggests alternative visions for new work spaces from the perspective of peripheral places which could be seen as linked to new ‘rurban’ lifestyles. How can such new visions and approaches contribute to the wider transformation and reinvention of peripheralised areas and contribute to progressive local development? This ESR-project will be based on a comparative case study methodology on municipality level and compare two cases (in Germany and in Latvia) through primarily qualitative methods. The fellow will be integrated in the PhD programme of the Graduate School Global and Area Studies of Leipzig University. Secondments are foreseen at the Paris School of Business, France and Metro Kuldiga in Latvia.


  • Development of theoretical and conceptual framework linked to imaginations of rurban futures in the context of new work spaces and the future of work outside of agglomerations
  • methodological design of case study approach and empirical implementation
  • comparative context analyses at local, regional and national levels
  • participant observation in CWS in Germany and Latvia, qualitative interviews and potentially panel data analysis and surveys with users as well as funders and staff
  • development of conceptual, methodological, empirical and policy implications


  • Masters’ degree in social sciences, geography or another discipline corresponding to the topic of the project
  • basic knowledge about conceptual debates about urbanity and rurality linked to the future of work as well as development options for peripheralised and structurally weak places and regions
  • good knowledge of qualitative research methods and experience in setting up a research plan, and an ability to work independently according to a well-defined schedule;
  • fluent in English, German and Latvian language skills will be an asset
  • good knowledge of IT-based communication tools
  • readiness to participate in network-wide training events, conferences and workshops
  • excellent communication skills
  • strong interest in interdisciplinary collaboration and in working in a cooperative and flexible team environment

The fellow should contribute to the outreach of the project, especially by:

  • Elaborating a PhD thesis
  • Active participation in progressing the ITN’s publications (WP monographs, journal articles)
  • Active participation in scientific conferences, policy workshops etc. at national and EU level
  • Participation in media communication, in the development of a web-based glossary, in creating video clips and podcasts and in disseminating project information at the EU level using the European Commissions’ communication tools 

For further information you may contact:

Dr. Thilo Lang,

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 955907.