RGS-IBG Annual Conference, University of Exeter, September 2015
Session Title: The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe – Two sessions awarded
Sponsored by: Royal Geographic Society with the Institute of British Geographers Postgraduate Forum.
Session conveners: Ben Gilby (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Robert Sheargold (Royal Holloway, University of London)
“A country is a store-house of dormant energies, laid up in the germ by Nature but depending for employment upon man.”
Whilst Vidal de la Blache’s words above were written over eighty years ago, they have exceptional resonance today. These ‘dormant energies’ he spoke of, are suddenly being awoken in far more vigorous ways than ever before. The latter half of 2014 saw a resurgence in demands for independence and devolution within Europe. Scotland has held an independence vote, with regions such as Catalonia and Venice holding non-legally binding polls which have resulted in decisive outcomes for pro-independence supporters. Into this mix comes the likes of Brittany and Cornwall, with decade long demands for a Cornish Assembly, and a 50,000 signature petition handed into Downing Street. This session aims to examine the contemporary trends towards independence in Europe, through critically examining the local political situation in these regions and the consequences for wider national cohesion as a result of demands for independence or devolution, as these regions look to finally shake off what Hechter (1999) has termed ‘internal colonialism’.
We have been awarded two sessions for this topic. The first of which will focus on papers discussing the present trends, – each paper presentation should aim to last for twenty minutes, with a Q&A session at the end of each paper.
The second session will be an examination of the associated cultural identity of European regions, as this plays such a major part in establishing their unique sense of place and ‘difference’. For the second session, we would welcome the performance of drama, art, music or other forms of creative art in the indigenous language of these European regions.
Potential contributions might reflect on, but are not restricted to:
- Impact on the mainstream political parties in recent General Elections on a region’s demand for greater autonomy.
- Rise of political parties supporting independence or greater devolution.
- How have regional identities been changed in post-devolution states such as Wales?
- Role of indigenous culture and language on calls for greater autonomy.
- Examination of ‘Internal Colonialism’ and the relationship between its historic use in these regions and the present day demands for greater autonomy.
- The impact of the prolonged shifting regional policy between Labour and Conservatives in the UK? (Impact of creating ‘false regions’ and do regions even matter to some places in the UK?)
- Impact of regional calls for greater autonomy on the wider nation state.
- The likely future for regions such as Venice and Catalonia who have voted for independence in non-legally binding ballots.
- Relationship between place and mobility in demands for greater autonomy for regions.
- Consequences on cultural and national cohesion if demands for independence/autonomy are continually denied.
- Performance/displays of art and culture celebrating region’s unique identities – we are very keen for performances of indigenous music, poetry or art. Performances or histories of indigenous sporting activities would also be welcomed.
- Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to both Ben Gilby (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Robert Sheargold (email@example.com) by Wednesday 11th February 2015. Please be sure to include your name, institution or affiliation and email address in the email. We regret that we cannot provide funding for the successful applicants to attend the conference.
Hechter,M: (1999): ‘Internal Colonialism: ‘The Celtic Fringe in British National Development: Transaction: London
Vidal de la Blache, P. (1928): ‘The Personality of France’: Christopher: London.