Aspirations bring different versions of the future into the present. This introductory essay asks what we can learn by attending to the myriad ways in which rural subjects and collectivities articulate and institutionalise aspirations. We argue that aspirations are conditioned by constellations of power, which shape what can be done and what can be imagined. These visions of alternative futures can be either affirmative or transformative, but will always entail negotiations over the meaning of self and community. This conceptualisation cautions against policymaking based on individualised aspirations, and invites readers to inquire into how rural populations negotiate and embrace, accommodate or reject rural transformations.
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