The Laboratoire d’études rurales of Lyon (LER, “Laboratory of rural studies”) is a pluridisciplinary research unit belonging to the University of Lyon 2 and settled in the Institut des sciences de l’Homme (Institute of social sciences) of Lyon (ISH-Lyon).
This unit was created in 2003 by Pr. Jean-Luc Mayaud, historian, specialist of late modern rural development, with the aim to build a team of high scientific level able to structure researches in new questionings about rural and agricultural development, linking social, political, technical and scientific approaches, from the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 21st century.
The university of Lyon has an old tradition of both geographical and historical rural studies. The LER was first based on the scientific resources of the University of Lyon 2 in those two fields, joined in 2004 by social sciences researchers of an agricultural engineer college, the ISARA-Lyon, then by researchers of other universities of the region, allowing the laboratory to offer a wide set of competences, including sociology, economics, agronomy and law. The LER is now able to produce both researches and expertise on agricultural or rural issues mainly in Rhône-Alpes, but also in other french regions and since a few years in international rural studies (Canada and Brazil mainly).
Born in the context of the revival of the questionings concerning food, hygiene and health, environment and territorial organization in postindustrial societies, this research unit wanted to meet social and institutional demands with methodical and ethical responses, producing a permanent scientific criticism of the representations involved in rural issues, what french rural studies have identified as the agrarian paradigm. So one could say that the real object of the researches conducted in the LER is in fact the dynamics of modernity, seized by the bias of rural and agricultural issues and microsocial methods, with a constant practice of field work.