Throughout the last decades, the societal and economic integration taking place within Europe has aimed to improve and balance people’s living conditions. This process should be sustained by both shared political values as well as free trade, a common market, and the mobility of people and ideas. Nevertheless, territories often still develop unevenly and the focus on neoliberal policies often perpetuates polarisation instead of achieving social and territorial cohesion. To better grasp these dynamics, this research area pursues new perspectives on researching diverging socio-spatial developments that lead to “multiple geographies”. Its practical aim is to propose solutions on how to tackle the political, economic, and societal challenges resulting from increasing polarisation and peripheralisation.
Of particular interest are questions about how political, economic, and civil society actors initiate new developments, the challenges that need to be overcome, as well as about the processes, which determine the socio-spatial (dis)advantageous settings in which actors, places, and regions find themselves. Contributing to the wider debate on a balanced and just spatial development, the research area investigates alternative perspectives for structurally weak and peripheralised regions. Of particular interest are approaches to regional development, which are less prominent in the public discourse.
What is the role of local spatial conditions and relations in social and economic innovation processes and path development? What is the progressive potential of alternative, social and peripheral economies? How can regional and local change be understood as collaborative processes that comprise state, quasi-state, and non-state actors? How, and under which circumstances do cities, regions and especially peripheralised areas reposition themselves in contexts of Europeanisation, nation building, internalisation, and globalisation? The research area seeks to examine these questions predominantly through transnational comparative studies.