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Degraded and restituted towns in Poland: Origins, development, problems

Edited book
Authors Robert Krzysztofik
Mirek Dymitrow
ISBN 91-86472-76-3
Publisher University of Gothenburg
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Unit for Human Geography
Language en
Keywords degraded towns, restituted towns, urbanity, rurality, formalization, Poland
Subject categories History of Ideas, Physical Geography, Architectural Engineering, Physical planning, Landscape Architecture, Economic History, Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Law and Society, Social and Economic Geography, Human Geography, Economic Geography, Settlement studies, History, Cultural Studies


One of the less known problems in settlement geography is the issue of so-called degraded and restituted towns. This lack of reconnaissance, however, is perhaps less the result of the towns’ scarcity than their specificity of being ‘awarded’ or ‘deprived of’ an urban label by means of strictly socio-political actions. Degraded and restituted towns, hence, are spatial units made ‘urban’ or ‘rural’ instantaneously, irrespective of their de facto state along what is widely considered a gradual path of (de)urbanization. Instead, they become compartmentalized into two constructed spatial categories that have survived the onslaught of material transformations and philosophical repositioning through different whims of time. While ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ are conceptual binaries that certainly need to be treated with caution, their cultural salience may cause tangible consequences within national administrative systems that abide by a formalized rural-urban distinction. This issue becomes particularly important for settlements that clearly transcend any imagined rural-urban divide, i.e. those, whose material and immaterial characteristics seem counterfactual to their assigned category. It is also crucial in formal practices designed to avert such counterfactualities, but whose ran-domness of approach more creates confusion than helps straighten out a historical concoction. Both processes, nonetheless, lend ‘urbanity’ and ‘rurality’ a resonance of objectivity, justifying their use as guides for a host of developmental endeavors, despite subverting a much more intricate reality. Degraded and restituted towns are direct derivatives of this. Drawing on the above-mentioned irreconcilabilities, the aim of this book is to present and scrutinize degraded and restituted towns through the example of Poland, where these towns occupy a special niche. For one, Poland, due to its chequered and variegated history, is home to a conspicuously large number of degraded (831) and restituted (236) towns; for another, Poland’s relentlessness of formalizing ‘urbanity’ as a category of statistical, political and cultural guidance has a direct bearing on the lives of the towns’ residents. Realizing the intricacy of degraded and restituted towns in the face of commonplace ru-ral-urban ideations, the editors and the 17 contributing Authors of this book have made an effort to capture the towns’ complexity with special foci on their shrouded origins, developmental specificity and incurred problems. Owing to the involvement of researchers from different scientific disciplines and subdisciplines, the undertaken project has helped elucidate the problem from multiple perspectives: spatial, social, demographic, economic, environmental, historical, architectural, cultural, legal and philosophical. Allocated into 17 chapters, not only have the presented interpretations allowed for a first interdisciplinary synthesis on the topic, but they also helped outline some prospective directions for future research. Moreover, collecting materials of such diversity into an amalgamated whole has helped identify specific discourses that enwrap the concept of “urbanity” when seen through its oscillations within formal contexts, and to which degraded and restituted towns serve as expendable game pieces. By combining knowledge arrived at through ontologically and epistemologically different approaches, the incremental contribution of this book as a whole could be summarized in two attainments: a) extending theoretical frameworks used to study degraded and restituted towns in terms of definition, conceptualization and assessing predispositions for future de-velopment on account of their spatial, legal, socio-economic and historical charac-teristics; b) initiating an anticipated discussion on a number of important and current topics re-lated to the practices of degradation and restitution that have not received adequate attention, e.g., the urbanity-vs.-rurality paradox, the changeability of human settlement forms vs. the consequences of rigid spatial categorizations; the role of various actors in shaping the socio-economic reality under the guise of an ossified binary; or identifying spatio-conceptual conflicts as future challenges for local, regional and national policy.

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