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The attractiveness of small and medium towns

Criteria, issues and strategies

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Published on Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The aim of the conference is to present researches dealing with the issue of attractiveness of small and medium-sized towns, by scholars and stakeholders from various backgrounds (geographers, historians, economists, sociologists, spatial planers, etc.). This conference should favour exchanges and cross-analysis between methodological and epistemological works. Furthermore, the comparison will focus on functional relationships between secondary towns and rural areas. Those surrounding areas are also changing, sometimes more depopulated, sometimes more dynamic than urban centres: what are the position of small and medium towns, as "centres", "poles", "outposts"? What remains on inherited relationships in times of mobility, in sometimes fragile contexts (due to the demographical and economic aspects)? What is their place in changing urban networks?


Particular attention will be paid to following problems:

  • Definition of attractiveness: multidisciplinary, comparative and diachronic approaches
    • An important aim of the conference is to clarify the object of attractiveness. How can it be defined and measured? What are the indicators of attractiveness? Have secondary towns always been attractive and according to what paces and contexts? What are the differences between small and medium towns and what is in common between a 2 000 and a 25 000 inhabitants towns? Beyond size issues, factors of attractiveness in small and medium towns should be analysed.
    • The multidisciplinary conference should allow sharing concepts and epistemological approaches to specify criteria of analysis of small and medium towns.
  • Issues of quality of life and residential attractiveness
    • In a context of strong political and social demand on quality of life, linked with growing aspects of sustainable development and increasing residential economy, secondary towns are part of the competition between territories by promoting advantages such as good image, "natural" environment, accessible prices, local solidarities or historical heritage. The issue of mobility is important due to growing distances and spatial dissociations between places of work and places of living.
    • The issue of quality of life deals with different aspects such as urban environment, social amenities, well-being, local services and trades, from an "objective" point of view (ratio and statistical elements) but also more subjective aspects such as social demand, specifically from newcomers, for rural character and urban equipments. Discourses and marketing promote "Human sized cities", "Places of well-being", "Small is beautiful", as mottos for small and medium towns. But what is the reality beyond those words?
    • The comparative approach is interesting to study towns in different contexts. Stakes such as decentralisation policies, privatisation, reform of public services (and new roles dedicated to the first levels of the urban hierarchy) deserve to be analysed: to what extend are these elements of context influencing the attractiveness of secondary towns?
  • Functional changes: innovation and competitiveness
    • Another aspect is dealing with the economic aspects of the local development. Economists are largely insisting on the economies of scale, giving advantages to big territories. Sociologists stress the advantages of small territories for social interactions and more individual relationships. Several hypotheses can be formulated for secondary towns:
      • they combine both advantages, benefiting from a big enough size without destroying social links necessary to their development,
      • the contrary, they are penalised by a size inferior to the optimal one and can't benefit from the effects of social networks.
    • Those issues should be discussed in different contexts.
  • Public policies : to support and promote the attractiveness of territories
    • Nowadays, public policies are largely promoting support to large cities, through specific policies for competitive poles, research and development fields and innovation activities. But studies of economists, geographers or sociologists show that small and medium towns are part of economic and social innovation processes and deserve to be supported by public stakeholders. In some cases, specific policies are dedicated to small and medium towns but not always (and not often)
    • This session will deal with identity and political aspects of attractiveness. How is it appropriated by local stakeholders? What frames of reference and incentive levers are used and implemented? For example, what project of territory is implied by certification actions such as UNESCO label for heritage or Cittaslow network for quality of life? Lots of territories are implementing policies to attract inhabitants and entrepreneurs through conventional programs (creation of activities zones) or more original ones (support to project initiators). It is interesting to have presentation of those policies and elements of valuation.

Call for papers:

  • Deadline to submit a paper: 31st of May 2012: sending of abstracts in English to the Conference secretariat: towns@up.krakow.pl
  • Abstracts will be maximum 2500 signs long. The paper title, author's names and institutions and email-addresses should be consigned in the header.
  • Abstracts will be evaluated by the scientific committee.
  • End of June 2012: notification of authors of accepted abstracts.
  • The accepted summaries will be printed in the special conference bulletin.
  • Notice of acceptance and more detailed schedule of events will be sent by e-mail.
  • It will be also available on the conference Internet page.


  • Deadline for registration: 12th of October 2012
  • The overall fee of 110 EUR covers all costs for registration, conference materials, participation in conference reception and the catering during the conference.
  • The overall fee of 145 EUR covers also cost of field trip (bus + lunch + entrance to Wieliczka Salt Mine)
  • Registration fees for students (PhD students) 50 euro or 85 EUR with a field trip.
  • Participants are invited to fill in the registration form and then send it by e-mail to: towns@up.krakow.pl, by mail to the address of the Conference Secretary, or by fax (no +48 12 662 62 43).
  • Registration form you can download here in PDF or RTF file.

Scientific Committee :

  • Prof. dr hab. Jan Rajman
  • Prof. dr hab. Jean-Charles Edouard
  • Prof. dr hab. Zygmunt Górka
  • Prof. dr hab. Jean-Luc Fray
  • Prof. dr hab. Daniel Ricard,
    Dr Helene Mainet
  • Dr Agnieszka Kwiatek-Sołtys
  • Dr Krzysztof Wiedermann
  • Dr Helene Roth

Organizing Committee :

  • Prof. dr hab. Jean-Charles Edouard
  • Dr Agnieszka Kwiatek-Sołtys
  • Dr Helene Mainet
  • Dr Krzysztof Wiedermann



  • Department of Socio-Economic Geography, Institute of Geography, Pedagogical University of Cracow
    Kraków, Poland


  • Thursday, May 31, 2012


  • Villes secondaires, attractivité, aménagement, stratégies


  • Frédérique Van Celst
    courriel : frederique [dot] van_celst [at] uca [dot] fr

Information source

  • Hélène Mainet
    courriel : Helene [dot] MAINET [at] univ-bpclermont [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The attractiveness of small and medium towns », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, https://calenda.org/207473

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