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A Community Issue? Rural Women's Feelings of Safety and Fear in New Zealand

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Following previous geographies of gender and fear this article is stimulated by the dominance of urban accounts of women's experience of safety and fear in different 'private' and 'public' spaces. We argue that rural and emotional geography perspectives on these issues provide new directions for both a feminist critique of the notion of 'rural community' and broadening of the emotional geographies literature. Communities have been studied at length in rural geography, yet the term itself can be problematic and its emotional potency has not been rigorously interrogated. Differing experiences of the rural community in relation to characteristics of, for example, class, gender, sexuality, age and ethnicity have led to a questioning of idyllic assumptions attached to rural life and the construction of ideas about the rural community. In this article we extend existing debates to argue that constructions of the rural community as an emotionally harmonious, safe and peaceful space may be challenged by women's experiences of fear in various rural spaces. We take the specific case of two contrasting Aotearoa/New Zealand communities and document how women negotiate personal feelings of safety and fear in their own areas. We highlight the absence of a binary of fear/safety, noting that women often live with and through these emotions in more complex ways. Finally, we close by placing this discussion within broader reflections on community as an emotionally charged term and as a rhetorical space of concern and/or responsibility in agency discourse and crime management.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography University of Otago USA 2: Department of Geography University of Exeter UK

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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