Patterns of interaction across borders: Space, language and architecture. A network model applied to border regions in Belgium and Spain

Annemarie Constantinescu-Strihan, University of Pennsylvania


Regional jurisdictions become increasingly significant in the political landscape of the European Union. This research examines regional borders that are sub-national, ethnic and administrative divisions in Western Europe in order to construct a model that represents them better than existent models. The proposed model describes the regional border between Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium and between the Basque Country and Castile-Leon in Spain as heterogeneous areas. This heterogeneous image is grounded in the analysis of two cultural signs of spatial ordering, namely language and architecture, which contributed strongly to the political definition of ethnic borders in Europe. The analysis centers on the nineteenth century, a time when this type of borders have been politically acknowledged and defined in the form we know today. These borders have emerged from the tension between territorial parts—visible as regions, dialects and local architectural styles—and territorial wholes—visible as nations, standard languages and national esthetic norms. This perspective on borders challenges their common definition as continuous divisions between homogeneous territories and re-defines them as fragmented spaces of transition between heterogeneous zones. The proposed model matches this fragmented reality of the border with a network-based representation that is tested with a documented set of social interactions. The network model, which uses the formal network analysis as methodology, represents border regions in terms of existent patterns of cross-border interactions and shifts thus the focus of most border models from assessing characteristics of places to evaluating characteristics of relations among places. The model identifies and measures configurations of relations that favor either social inclusion or exclusion across borders. These findings complement existent models of borders that are primarily based on physical distance and characteristics of places. The network approach to modelling borders avoids the dissolution of sociocultural differences among regions and acknowledges their role in organizing the political space into regions.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Architecture|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Constantinescu-Strihan, Annemarie, "Patterns of interaction across borders: Space, language and architecture. A network model applied to border regions in Belgium and Spain" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3152021.