Rural and Regional Sociology

Research Area

The field of rural sociology is dedicated to examining social, cultural, and structural transformations in rural areas. Key thematic areas include studies on (agro-)food and regional and rural development. Our research primarily takes place within interdisciplinary projects, and the findings contribute to the content of courses in the Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, the Master of Arts in Environmental Management of Mountain Areas (EMMA), and the Doctoral Program in Tourism and Leisure in Mountain Regions (TLMR).

Agricultural and food system


globale und lokale Verflechtungen
Produktion und Konsum

Regional developments


Landwirtschaft und Tourismus
Wandel der Kulturlandschaft

The working group affiliated with the interfaculty research centers Mountain Agriculture Research Unit and the Research Center for Tourism and Recreation. These centers are integral components of the university's research focus ‘Mountain Areas’.




Zukunftskolleg FWF: Exploring values-based modes of production and consumption in the corporate food regime (2021 - 2025)

The current agricultural and food system is dominated by transnational corporations that are based on competition, economic growth and the maximization of profits. This corporate food regime is contested by social movements and producers, which are often locally based and aim for a more sustainable production based on values such as solidarity or trust. In our research project, we focus on those small- and mid-scale initiatives that we understand as values-based modes of production and consumption. Our two concrete examples are community supported agriculture (CSA) and regional food chains. We are interested in the question to what extend these small- and mid-scale bottom-up initiatives have the potential to change the corporate food regime (i.e. the dominant value chains in food production).

Our key aim is to analyze small- and mid-scale initiatives and how they work to change corporate power and the state in relation to the corporate food regime.

  1. The project develops a common theoretical framework how to understand these values-based initiatives combining, and thus refining food regime theory with other theoretical approaches that encompass state theory, social capital and territoriality. This allows us to examine the initiatives on a local scale but at the same time embeds them in the broader national and global debate.
  2. We further develop a methodological toolkit of how to study these initiatives and their incorporated values.
  3. We examine cases of CSA and regional food chains in Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Argentina.
  4. The project monitors and evaluates the research process including reflections on mutual learning within the interdisciplinary research team.

Research team
Chrisitina Plank (BOKU, Institute of Social Ecology)
Rike Stotten (Uibk, Institute of Sociology)
Robert Hafner (Uibk, Institute of Geography)

Project budget:  
Overall: € 1.203.438,92
Uibk Sociology: € 400.604,82


ContactAss. Prof. Rike Stotten


SYNAGRI: Developing synergies between the bioeconomy and regional food systems for a sustainable future (2021 - 2024)

Bioeconomy promises a more sustainable society through a shift from processing non-renewable mineral resources to renewable bioresources. This project tries to assess the consequences for agriculture. Concerns have been raised that the future bioeconomy will place farmers at the bottom of value chains as suppliers of low-value biomass for processing and conversion. Moreover, the bioeconomy may be a serious competitor to established food systems.

The aim of SYNAGRI is to understand the capacity for integration between an emerging bioeconomy and regional food systems, and develop strategies to promote an integrated, sustainable food system. The project will contribute to theoretical developments in systems thinking, understand how food systems can be transformed through integration and its implications for social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

The project was commissioned by the Norwegian Research council and is coordinated by Ruralis, the Institute of Rural and Regional Research in Trondheim, Norway. The main outcome will be to advance a systems perspective on Norwegian food systems and assist Norway in identifying prospects for value creation through food system-bioeconomy integration. Our part at the Univeristy of Innsbruck is to provide a case study from Tyrol looking into the (potential) connections between traditional foods and the bioeconomy in the cases of “Bergkäse” and “Speck”



Project archive



Media & Videos




Teaching at the University of Innsbruck

 Bachelor's program of Sociology (teaching language German)

Module 12: Agricultural and regional sociology (10 ECTS-AP, 4 SSt.)
   VO Agricultural and Regional Sociology
   SE Agricultural and Regional Sociology

Module 15: Selected Topics in Sociology (15 ECTS-Credits, 6 semesters)
    VU Selected Topics of Sociology: Agro-Food Studies
    VU Selected Topics of Sociology: Regional Sociology


 Environmental Management of Mountain Areas (EMMA)

VU Selected Chapters in Environmental Management I: Sustainable Regional Development
VU Selected Chapters in Environmental Management II: Agrifood Studies


The Team

Ass.-Prof. Dr. M.A. Rike Stotten



Rike Stotten has been an assistant professor (tenure track) at the Institute of Sociology since 2020. Her research focuses thematically on Rural Sociology and Agro-Food Studies and spatially on mountain areas. Here she is interested in the manifold relationships and interconnections between town and country, production and consumption, as well as the underlying processes, structures and power relations. She has been head of the Agricultural and Regional Sociology working group since 2022 and is spokesperson of the Rural Social Research Section of the Austrian Sociological Association, as well as deputy spokesperson of the Mountain Agriculture Research Centre.

She studied Geography and Sociology at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Universität Aachen and graduated with a Master's thesis on the acceptance of nature conservation measures at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland. She worked as a research assistant at the Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and at the Competence Centre for Urban and Regional Development at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Link: i-point
Tel.: +43 512 507-73425
Room: w 2.07

Univ.-Prof. i. R. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Markus Schermer


Markus Schermer

Markus Schermer graduated in agricultural economics from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna in 1983. From 1984 - 1999 he worked in development cooperation, agricultural extension and spatial planning outside the university. Since 1999 he has been working at the University of Innsbruck, where he completed his dissertation at the Institute of Sociology in 2004. This was followed in 2008 by his habilitation in sociology. From 2008-2010 he served as Institute Director at the Institute of Sociology, until 2020 he was Deputy Institute Director. From 2010-2014 he acted as a study officer. He was also head of the Mountain Agriculture Research Centre from 2005 to 2008 and has been deputy head since then. He officially retired in fall 2022.

His research focuses on the following areas: Social developments in food production and consumption; Territorial approaches to regional development; Changes in the cultural landscape in mountain areas; The position of farmers in society.

Tel.: +43 512 507-73413
Room: w 2.18 

Mag. Dr. Nora Katharina Faltmann


Nora Faltmann

With a background in development studies, Nora Katharina Faltmann works on social science perspectives on food. She completed her PhD in Development Studies at the University of Vienna in 2022. Her dissertation focused on food safety and social inequality in Vietnam. Since October 2022, she has been a project assistant in the project 'Exploring values-based modes of production and consumption in the corporate food regime'.

Tel.: +43 512 507 73422
Room: w 2.24

Dr. Thea Wiesli


Thea Wiesli

Thea Xenia Wiesli has been employed as a Postdoc at the Institute of Sociology since 2023. Her research interests lie thematically in the fields of Sustainable Development, food studies, meat consumption, animal-human relations, and regional sociology. In her PhD, she investigated the connection between sustainability and high quality of life in rural regions and in nature parks. In other research projects at the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Bern, she worked on resettlement of mountain villages, food policies and food justice.

Tel.: +43 512 507 73439
Room: w 2.24

Paul Froning, M.Sc


Paul Fronig

Paul Froning completed his Master's degree in the international Environmental Management of Mountain Areas program with a focus on regional development and mountain agriculture at the Universities of Innsbruck and Bolzano in 2023. In his master's thesis, he focused on territorial development strategies based on organic farming in Valposchiavo, Switzerland. Currently, he is employed as a research assistant in the project 'Exploring values-based modes of production and consumption in the corporate food regime'.

Room: w 2.18

Jacqueline Feurstein, BA


Jacqueline Feurstein

Jacqueline Feurstein graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Innsbruck and is a student assistant at the Institute of Sociology. As part of the project "Exploring values-based modes of production and consumption in the corporate food regime", she is writing her Master's thesis in the field of agricultural and regional sociology.

Room: w 2.18

Nach oben scrollen