Beyond the ‘urban’ and the ‘rural’: conceptualizing a new generation of infrastructure systems to enable rural–urban sustainability

Related GLP Member: Victor Gutierrez


Advancing global sustainability requires an understanding of ways in which rural–urban processes interact to produce sustainability outcomes. Rural–urban relationships are mostly studied through an urban focus and with urbanization as a main driver of sustainability outcomes. We review three broadly adopted perspectives on urban–rural relationships from an urbanization perspective. Then, we shift the conceptualization of rural–urban relationships away from ‘the urban’ to illustrate ways in which ‘rural’ processes, practices, and places drive rural–urban sustainability. We argue for a research agenda that analyzes ‘the rural’ and ‘the urban’ as mutually constituted. Such an understanding can inspire a new generation of infrastructure that integrates nature as essential for urban sustainability, supports diverse livelihoods and lifestyles, and helps to bridge rural–urban divides.

Paper can be downloaded for free through the middle of June 2022 here.