Raising the Regional Leviathan: A Relational-Materialist Conceptualization of Regions-in-Becoming as Publics-in-Stabilization


  • I wish to extend my gratitude to the anonymous IJURR referees for their helpful and supportive comments. A protean version of this article was presented at the AESOP annual conference in Helsinki, 7–10 July 2010. Earlier versions of the article have further benefited from generous and helpful comments from Frida Andersson, Beatrix Haselsberger, Patsy Healey, Jean Hillier and Gunnar Olsson — who have all helped me greatly in clarifying and thinking through my arguments. Special gratitude is extended to Jonas Bylund whose acute reading of a late version of the article helped me find ways to navigate some dire straits. Of course, none of them bear any responsibility for any lapses, errors and misinterpretations remaining in the article. The research presented in this article was financed by FORMAS assistant professorship grant # 250-2009-1187.


The purpose of this article is to contribute to the understanding of how spatial entities in general — and those spatial entities that are defined as ‘regions’ in particular — form, evolve and sometimes stabilize. Inspired by the scholarship of Noortje Marres, the article explores how regions-in-becoming may be gainfully conceptualized as publics-in-stabilization. In the article it is argued that some of the mechanisms involved in such processes pertain to how territorially framed issues sometimes become formulated as loosely articulated propositions for regionalization. These can, with time, generate emergent stakeholder communities, which in turn may become stabilized and delegated to more durable forms and materials which can eventually become naturalized as recognized regions. A suggested conceptual model is utilized to perform an analysis of empirical material from three contemporary processes of regionalization in Northern Europe with the purpose of examining and discussing some of the potential merits and shortcomings of the conceptual model. It is concluded that adopting the proposed perspective can enable scholars to highlight some of the mechanisms whereby vague and non-coherent propositions for regionalization within time may be singularized and stabilized to such a degree that they become taken for granted as naturalized spatialities.