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  • Publication
    Cities, networks, and region-building: exploring intermunicipal connections and strategies in the north-western Mediterranean
    (University College Dublin. School of Geography, 2022) ;
    0000-0001-7381-3107
    This thesis analyses the intermunicipal cooperation policies developed by the government of Barcelona in the north-western Mediterranean during the 1980s and 1990s. In doing so, it aims to advance existing debates on the political construction of urban regions by reflecting on the role of cooperation between municipal governments in these processes. In recent years, the notion of city regions as locomotives of economic growth in the age of globalisation has been supplemented by more critical approaches showing that they are objects of political practice too. This has emphasised their heterogeneous, contested, and multidirectional nature since urban regions are increasingly seen as the product of a collage of interests and logics. Moreover, this reconceptualisation has expanded their meaning beyond engines of economic competitiveness. Hence, urban regionalism has emerged as a strategy that can be oriented towards the achievement of multiple agendas. This thesis further develops this argument by critically examining how different intermunicipal networks promoted by the government of Barcelona tried to build a transnational megaregion in the north-western Mediterranean. These initiatives were part of a broader strategy of internationalisation that radically transformed the city during the 1980s and 1990s. As such, they were a pioneering application of new economic theories stressing the critical role of urban regions in the worldwide economy. By analysing the evolution of these regional cooperation policies, this thesis makes three claims: first, the role of city governments in these region-building processes is profoundly experimental since it does not follow a pre-defined blueprint; second, this role is contingent on several factors such as the availability of institutional resources, individual leaderships and their networks, party politics, and broader structural conditions; third, this role is political since it is based on the constant interaction and negotiation to align multiple interests and identities. This argument supports the idea that urban regionalism is not a neutral strategy of economic governance but rather a heterogeneous and multidirectional imaginary that provides a frame for different actions and agendas. Furthermore, this thesis also contributes to developing a more spatially sensitive approach to municipal diplomacy by shedding light on how intermunicipal cooperation produces new transnational spaces. Finally, this thesis underscores the potential role of city governments in ongoing debates about regional cooperation in the north-western Mediterranean area.
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