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At its core, the contemporary international system is based on the existence of and interaction between a set of territorially demarcated states (Agnew 1994). Within each of these territorially bounded spaces, the state – as a collection of centralised political institutions – is sovereign. This sovereignty within this internationally agreed geographic division is presumed to be mutually exclusive (Taylor 1995). Whilst the exclusivity of state territoriality has been increasingly challenged (see below), there can be little doubting that it remains a focal point within the operation of the contemporary international system. The desire of the state to sustain and maintain its territorial pre-eminence within its bounded space requires it to develop and implement territorial strategies that enable, enforce and/or legitimise its territoriality. This is suggestive that the primary objective of these territorial strategies is to enable territoriality through enhancing the welfare of its citizens via growth, improved security, socio-economic development, territorial cohesion, etc. (Taylor 1994). This emphasises – in the absence of coercion of its citizens – the link between territoriality and the legitimacy of the state as a territorial agent. Integral to this link is the process of infrastructuring. This is defined as the act of creating and maintaining a territorial infrastructure system where infrastructure is commonly defined as ‘built networks that enable flows over space’ (Larkin 2013, p.329), offering services that, at their core, are central to territorial functioning and to the operation of the agents within that space (Finger et al. 2005).
Anssi Paasi, John Harrison and Martin Jones
Region and territory have been major keywords of geographical thinking, methodology and research practice since the institutionalization of geography as an academic discipline at the end of the nineteenth century. But what is a region? How are they constructed? How do regions relate to territory? Are regions and territories still relevant in today’s modern world characterized by all kinds of flows and networks? How are regions and territories affected and shaped by social forces? What does it mean to study the geographies of regions and territories? What does the future hold for these spatial categories? These are just some of the key questions, which have not only shaped the long intellectual history of studying regions and territories, they are as relevant today as they have ever been. In this chapter we chart the increased utility of the region and territory in different social, political and cultural realms. We trace the evolving geographies of regions and territories through five distinct chronological phases – traditional regional geographies, regional science, new regional geography, new regionalism and new regional worlds – before revealing the dynamics underpinning a regional resurgence in globalization. In the final part, we contend that contemporary geographies of regions and territories are marked by distinct regional worlds, diverse regional worlds, and decentred regional futures. Finally, by taking stock of the current state of debates on the theory and empirical dimensions of regions and territories, we make the case for a new phase of consolidated regional geographies.