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Theoretical reflection on the making of the Alpine region. The role of transnational networks on regional identity and institutionalization

Keywords: identity , regional identity , institutionalization of regions , cross-border regions , Alps , belonging , social image , identification , transnational networks , regional governance

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Abstract:

The article is a theoretical contribution on the ongoing debate on cross-border regions, regional identity and local networks. It shows how the Alps are being institutionalized and how a pan-Alpine regional identity is built across national boundaries. The aim is to show how the Alpine actors (NGOs, Alpine leaders and scientists, Alpine population, etc.) contribute to what Paasi calls “the institutionalization of regions”. The paper proposes an application of existing theories on identity and regional identity to the Alpine case. The combination of the different theories enables one to better identify the actors involved in the building of the Alps and other European cross-border regions. The proposition of Paasi will be combined with the contribution of Avanza and Laferté on identity, which differentiate the concepts of identification, social image and belonging. The analysis and comprehension of regional institutionalization is advanced if it is broken up into the three components of identity distinguished by Avanza and Laferté. In that way, the role of each component can be underscored and regional actors easily identified. This distinction is particularly interesting in order to capture the processes of region building and multi-level governance currently going on in the Alps. An integrated framework combining the different concepts is proposed. Finally, the paper will show how the Alpine region is part of a more generalised process of renewed regional governance, where European cross-border regions play a central role promoting them as “pivotal spaces of integration” (Sidaway 2009: 749). Furthermore, a final critical point about the participation of the population in this process will be addressed.

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