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A world of regions?

Un monde de régions ?

Interdisciplinary dialogue on regional integration around the world

Échanges et croisements disciplinaires sur l'intégration régionale dans le monde

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Published on Monday, June 18, 2018 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

This conference is part of an initiative that began in 2016 with the drafting of a critical dictionary of regional integration (forthcoming). The group of several dozen authors - most of them geographers - engaged in writing this dictionary were prompted by a number of observations: the lack of a dictionary dedicated to regional integration, whereas there is an abundance of dictionaries on globalisation; a persistent haziness in the definition of the notions; geographers' low profile in a field of research largely dominated by other disciplines: a surprising fact, given geographers' proven expertise in the study of regional issues. The conference will pursue this interdisciplinary discussion.

Announcement

Argument

Research into the organisation of world space and into globalisation is largely structured by work on networks, transnational practices and world cities. In the 1990s, Pierre Veltz proposed the term "archipelago economy", following in the footsteps of Olivier Dollfuss, who had written about the global metropolitan archipelago. In academic readings of globalised space, relatively scant attention is paid to large-scale regions, in the sense of groupings of neighbouring countries, typically featuring greater interaction between societies situated in the same part of the world, whether or not these groupings are institutionally formalised (European Union, ASEAN, Mercosur, etc.). Political scientists admittedly work on regional agreements, economists admittedly discuss the drawbacks and benefits – though especially the drawbacks – of these regional groupings, while geographers and sociologists may specialise in studying one or other of these regions, but the region (in the sense of a grouping of neighbouring countries) is seldom seen as a core concept in international spatial organisation. Most authors would consider the prospect of a widespread return of proximity principles in large-scale regions a weak hypothesis.

 International current events would appear to corroborate this stance. Regional experiences in a variety of locations are confronted with serious crises, particularly in the European Union. In recent years, the handling of the economic and financial crisis, or the disagreements over managing the flows of refugees in the Schengen Area, reveal centrifugal forces that are diametrically opposed to the principle of European integration. Beyond the EU, the deep political crisis in Ukraine or in the Arab world is proof that the European Neighbourhood Policy is incapable of swaying the course of this large-scale region. In Washington, the new executive wants to renegotiate certain provisions of the NAFTA treaty. The CIS, originally intended to replace the USSR, is steadily disintegrating with each successive conflict. In Africa, regionalistic initiatives continue to be disappointing, on the whole. Elsewhere, regional integration is moving forward on a variety of paths, while compromising with conflicts or tensions between jealous nationalisms (as in East Asia or Latin America).

Should we see the regions as a contingent spatial organisation, often ill-equipped to contend with the social, economic, environmental and political challenges of the time and ultimately doomed to failure? Or, on the contrary, as a key form of global space in today's and tomorrow's world? The organisers lean towards the latter option. They believe that contemporary global space can only be understood within the dialectic between globalisation and regionalisation. They posit that the tensions at play in several world regions point not to their short-term failure but, on the contrary, to the slow and sometimes arduous maturing of the shift to a territorial form that is more appropriate than the nation-state for coping with the demands of globalisation.

The expectation is that this conference will provide an opportunity to discuss these positions. In particular, we are hoping for confirmation that regional integrations either are or are not an answer to the following four issues: 

An economic issue

Businesses with strong regional roots are all the more likely to carve out a place for themselves in global competition. Territorial integration is often achieved through firms and functional cooperation. Large-scale regions are thought to be a sound territorial compromise between the requirements of proximity (shorter distribution channels, production interactions propitious to innovation) and the requirements of broad-based markets (variety of resources, scale economies, complementarity, appropriate local or national specialisations). They are also presented by the member states as a tool for achieving economic growth, reducing inequalities and combating poverty, since they enhance territories' appeal and boost their connectivity and network interconnections, foster synergies, complementarities and scale economies and reduce duplicate investments.

A social and cultural issue

Collective preferences, which may yield common standards and values in various fields (a collective choice with regard to social security, the relationship to work, the environment, etc.), would be easier to construct at regional level than at global level; when they are co-constructed and shared by several adjoining countries, they play a role in regional integration. Regionalisation would also help build a regional identity and a feeling of belonging to a community, albeit an imagined one, shared not only by the political elite but also by citizens at large and civil society.

A political and governance issue

It is very difficult to regulate trade, environmental protection or migration at global level. At regional level, however, it would be possible to reinstate the government regulation that the nation-state can no longer provide, and address overly liberal and abrupt globalisation. International bodies and international law even assert the need for a regional approach to common problems and encourage its implementation: the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change explicitly wrote in the need to closely link global and regional issues when dealing with marine operations. The region is seen as an intermediate scale, between national rules and international conventions. It is thought to foster governance that more closely links international institutions and the partner States, as well as local communities and civil society.

A geopolitical issue

Regionalisation could bring order to a world with multiple centres of gravity. It would help pacify international relations and, by ushering in the post-US hegemony era, provide a credible scenario for a multi-polar world. Large-scale regions could play a role in the governance of globalisation and counterbalance the power of the United States and China. For the developing countries, regionalisation provides greater visibility on the international scene by putting an end to their diplomatic isolation, while at the same time giving them access to forums and international organisations, and a new capacity to exert influence. Not only that, but the multiplicity of proposed regional groups, with variable and often competing configurations, seems to reflect fresh rivalries and power struggles. Lastly, interregional dialogues such as the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) would be new forums for international relations, bolstering each region's identity.

The conference will be an opportunity to challenge our knowledge from various aspects:

  • The conceptual aspect, since there is still some looseness in the meaning of the terms: it is not always quite clear what authors mean when they use notions such as regionalisation, regionalism and regional integration; the links between them are generally not spelled out. This semantic haziness is heightened by a prolific English-language terminology on the subject that occasionally differs to that used in French.
  • A disciplinary aspect, since there is still too little input from geographers in this field of research. Their sparse contributions have not yet given rise to any attempt to generalise, let alone theorise. Legal experts and political scientists have been able to put forward a theorisation of the regional issue (see in particular the work of Jacques Ténier, or of Björn Hettne and Fredrik Söderbaum). Since Bela Balassa's work on the subject, economists have taken up the issue. Geographers, on the other hand, approach the issue only through specific occurrences, remaining in the wake of one of the great legacy families of the discipline, namely "regional geography", without moving up to the next level of generality. The difficulty also stems from the multiplicity of spatial forms and scales of integration, including cross-border and cross-national regions or macro-regions, twin cities and cross-border metropolitan areas, regional seas, extensive marine ecosystems, marine eco-regions and common development zones, or growth triangles, economic corridors and development corridors.
  • An interdisciplinary aspect: it is essential for geographers to contribute to work on this research field without overlooking input from economics, political science, international law and sociology. The conference will enable economists, political scientists, legal experts, sociologists and others to present their definitions and their approaches to regionalisation, regionalism and regional integration.
  • A methodological aspect, because scientific literature often says nothing about the methods that can be used to approach, measure and even represent regional integration. Clarifying the methods used is an essential first step towards establishing an analytical grid and comparing regionalisation's various forms and processes (spatial, temporal and institutional).

This conference is part of an initiative that began in 2016 with the drafting of a critical dictionary of regional integration (coordinated by Nora Mareï and Yann Richard), to be published in 2018. The group of several dozen authors - most of them geographers - engaged in writing this dictionary were prompted by a number of observations: the lack of a dictionary dedicated to regional integration, whereas there is an abundance of dictionaries on globalisation; a persistent haziness in the definition of the notions; geographers' low profile in a field of research largely dominated by other disciplines: a surprising fact, given geographers' proven expertise in the study of regional issues. The conference will pursue this interdisciplinary discussion.

Geographers and specialists in other disciplines should deliver their papers in French and English, presenting their research in a spirit of exchange and making every effort to eliminate any barriers between the different disciplines. Papers may put forward theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches or case studies selected from all over the world, on all regional scales (from cross-border region to large-scale region). They may address all areas to which regionalisation is applied (the environment, energy, transport, mobility and circulation, culture, trade, investment, development, security, etc.).

The conference proceedings (a collection of all of the selected proposals, together with their abstracts) will be posted online. Some papers will be selected to compile a thematic issue in a peer-reviewed journal.

Download the call for paper

Calendar

  • Deadline for submission of proposed papers to the organising committee: July 15 2018.

  • Organising committee's reply to the authors of papers: October 15 2018.
  • The conference will take place in Paris the 21 and 22 March 2019.

Submission guidelines

  • Each proposal must be written in either French or English (6,000 signs, spaces included).
  • It must be preceded by a title and between three and five keywords. The title and the keywords must be provided in both French and English.
  • It must be accompanied by five bibliographical references.
  • Each author will provide a short CV (maximum 500 signs, spaces included).
  • Abstracts must be submitted online on the conference website: https://mondederegions.sciencesconf.org

Scientific committee

  • Nacima Baron, professor, Paris Est University, UMR LVMT
  • Pierre Beckouche, professor, Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University, UMR Ladyss
  • Anne Bouhali, post-doctoral fellow, Labex Dynamite, UMR PRODIG
  • Nathalie Fau, senior lecturer, Paris-Diderot University, UMR CESSMA
  • Sylvain Kahn, PhD, Sciences Po Paris, Center for History
  • Nora Mareï, CNRS research fellow, UMR PRODIG
  • Yann Richard, professor, Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University, UMR PRODIG
  • Frédéric Santamaria, senior lecturer, Paris-Diderot University, UMR Géographie-cités
  • Hervé Théry, CNRS director emeritus for research, UMR Creda, Sao Paulo University

Places

  • Paris, France (75)

Date(s)

  • Sunday, July 15, 2018

Keywords

  • monde, région, intégration

Contact(s)

  • Anne Bouhali
    courriel : anne [dot] bouhali [at] u-picardie [dot] fr

Information source

  • Anne Bouhali
    courriel : anne [dot] bouhali [at] u-picardie [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« A world of regions? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, June 18, 2018, https://calenda.org/445344

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