Regions as (more or less bounded) processes: Discussing sub- and supranational (re)regionalization in Northern Europe

On 10th December the LISER Research Seminar Series (RSS) speaker is: Kaj Zimmerbauer (University of Oulu) – Regions as (more or less bounded) processes: Discussing sub- and supranational (re)regionalization in Northern Europe

The seminar takes place in the LISER conference room on the 1st floor of the MSH between 11:00 and 12:30.

If you would like to participate in the free lunch following the talk in the conference room (12:30 to 1:30), please register for the seminar by 10am this Friday (06/12) via this link.

Regions as (more or less bounded) processes: Discussing sub- and supranational (re)regionalization in Northern Europe

My aim is to discuss regionalization and re-regionalization processes from several angles, focusing on both supranational and sub-national regions. First, I discuss how the contemporary planning paradigm contributes to the process that has been labeled as the “softening of hard spaces”. This means that typically old, well-established spaces with relatively hard (administrative) borders become redefined and treated in planning practice as increasingly soft ones, having fuzzier or at least more porous borders. Second, I discuss how, at the same time, new soft spaces – such as gateways, newly conceived cross-border supranational spaces and other ad hoc regional spaces – become hardened through deepening institutional practices and discourses, and because of the often-emerging requirements to define what is included and excluded in spatial co-operation. These spatial transformations are then contextualized through empirical cases and connected to the ideas of relational and territorial spaces as well as to different ‘forms’ of regionalisms. Moving to another, yet related research ‘track’, I then focus on supranational co-operation, and using the Barents Euro-Arctic region as an example, I discuss how geoeconomization (instead of geopolitics) has been recently emphasized in supranational ‘region-work’. Relatedly, I seek to present some notions on territory-network interplay in regionalization process, and in particular how the interplay resonates with the shifts from geopolitics to geoeconomics (and possibly back again). From there, the track proceeds to the idea of applying game theory to the study of crossborder co-operation. In this, the understanding of co-operation is determined by perhaps its most fundamental paradox: simultaneous claims for competition and co-operation. While paradox is conceptualized as a situation where contradictory or even mutually exclusive elements are simultaneously present, game theory is approached as a model to study and explain people’s behavior when they face a social dilemma or paradox.

Kaj Zimmerbauer is senior research fellow and scientific coordinator in the RELATE (The Relational and Territorial Politics of Bordering, Identities and Transnationalization) Centre of Excellence (Academy of Finland) at the University of Oulu, Finland. His research topics include supranationalism and supranational region-building, regional/territorial identities, and territory network interplay. His most recent publications discuss the deconstruction of borders and manifestations of identities as well as different understandings and conceptualizations of spaces and regions in planning practices. He has also done extensive research on the Barents region in northernmost Europe, focusing on geopolitics and geoeconomics in cross-border regionalization processes as implemented by both nation states and sub-national regions. He has published, for example, in Regional Studies, Geoforum, European Planning Studies and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies.