NEW! XLIV Annual Scientific Conference
Read the abstracts of Plenary Session and Lectio Magistralis
Europe and the Mediterranean between transitions and conflicts. Opportunities and risks for regions and territories
XLIV Annual Scientific Conference, Naples, 6-8 September 2023
What use is Mediterranean Identity? Ethnographic Reflections on a Controversial Concept
Editor, Journal of Modern Greek Studies
Abstract: The substantial cultural differences among the various regions of the Mediterranean, even at the level of small villages situated in close proximity to each other, provided the basis of a critique of the concept of a “Mediterranean cultural area” that continued through the 1970s and 1980s. That critique, however, does not mean that intra-Mediterranean comparison is without analytical value. On the contrary, the phenomenon of regional cultural variation should instead push us to understand the remarkable historical capacity of Mediterranean societies to absorb populations of diverse origins, religions, cultural habits and social attitudes. The creation of the Schengen Area has not only reinforced the borders of the nation-states participating in it, but has also stiffened those pre-existing and previously more labile boundaries crossing the cultural complex of the Mediterranean basin, not to speak of the boundary that divides the region in two by separating the European nation-states from the rest and that thereby revives old colonial and even medieval attitudes. The promotion of models such as “the European way of life” threatens to empower a geopolitical version of “methodological nationalism,” transforming ethnic boundaries that for millennia have served as points of contact, exchange, and reciprocal influence by turning them into points of rejection, hostility, and reciprocal fear. This is a phenomenon also known in other parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, where one can observe a comparable reproduction of the logic of both the medieval Crusades and the Cold War. The kind of meticulous ethnographic research conducted by anthropologists, often in places still anchored in less bureaucratized social practices, can provide more open and more flexible models of interaction than are those that date back to the invention of the nation-state and the birth of its multiple Mediterranean incarnations.
Polycentric urban regions: theoretical underpinnings, analytical challenges, ambiguous impacts
Professor of Urban Studies, Public Governance Institute
Director, KU Leuven Urban Studies
Editor, Regional Studies
This paper critically surveys the scientific literature on ‘polycentric urban regions’ (PURs): regions characterised by the presence of multiple, more-or-less proximate centres where there is balanced development among these centres. PURs have long been recognised as an empirical reality, but today they are increasingly adopted as an analytical framework in urban and regional studies while also serving as a normative imagination for territorial development policies. With the literature now transcending the narration of alleged paradigmatic examples in geographical, thematic, and substantive terms, in this paper I review key insights emanating from, and major challenges associated with the PUR literature: (1) What are the key theoretical premisses and promises of PUR formation? (2) How can we address the multiplicity and inherent vagueness in PUR identification? (3) What are the economic and societal effects of PUR patterns and processes? Throughout, the paper draws on some of my own research as well as research that was part of a Regional Studies Association research network to shed light on past, present, and potential futures of this promising, yet at times also fuzzy concept.