Theoretical reflection on the making of the Alpine region. The role of transnational networks on regional identity and institutionalization.
The article is a theoretical contribution on cross-border regions, regional identity and local networks. It proposes a new perspective on existing theories, drawing the framework from different geographical traditions. Together, they are a powerful tool for the understanding of how the Alps and other European regions are being institutionalized and how a regional identity can be built across national boundaries. The aim is to show how the Alpine actors contribute to what Paasi calls the “spatial socialization” process and in so far to the institutionalization of the Alpine region.
The proposition of Paasi will be combined with the contribution of Avanza and Laferté on the discussions about “identity” in order to propose a new theoretical framework. Avanza and Laferté differentiate the concepts of identification, social image and belonging. This distinction is particularly interesting in order to catch the processes of region building and multi-level governance currently ongoing in Europe. The analysis of regional institutionalization gains on comprehension 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 underlined and a suitable methodology can be easier applied. A methodological suggestion is made in this article, showing how to concretely apply the concept of “regional identity” to the Alpine case.