Research program abstract

Transnational dynamics and territorial refoundations: a comparative approach in the "Suds”.

general coordination : Laurent Faret, Professor at University Paris Diderot

This is a three years program (2008-2010) granted by l’Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR France) and l’Agence Inter-établissements de Recherche pour le Développement (AIRD France).

Globalization places the territories of the "Suds" into dynamics of refoundation, spurred either by States and major international organizations, or, and increasingly, by local or foreign forces emancipated from the control of institutions and acting outside the usual national framework. The TRANSITER research program focuses on the issue of the evolution of territories in regional situations that have been influenced by major transnational dynamics or in the situation of transnational areas under construction. We claim that transnational dynamics – linked to the effects of regionalization, to foreign investments, to migration and mobility, to cross-border initiatives, or to the setting of development corridors - that can be similarly observed in various places, result in significant changes in the territorial layout on various scales. We consider that these changes rely on both the interaction of local and regional environments (culture, social identity, economy and politics) and the forces of globalization, resulting in interaction processes between various authorities. It appears that the models of planning suggested/imposed by international and government agencies tend to be identical throughout the world, whereas local solutions are quite differentiated and often throw off the control of institutions. The evolution of the territories show an ability of local actors influenced by various situations to adapt / react – and their analysis requires a sharp reading of the social and geographical realities involved. The scientific project aims at analysing the transnational dynamics in three areas, observing the forms they will take, and comparing the impact they will have as far as territorial re-configuration is concerned.

Thus the research project follows a deliberately comparative approach. The aim is to carry out an analysis of the relation trans-nationality / organization of territories, using the same theoretical tools and a common analysis grid, tailored to specific realities in two regional environments: Central America and South-East Asia. Three criteria have led to the choice of these subsets: first, we have assessed the importance of the transnational processes and the nature of their territorial reality; secondly, we have decided to focus on regional environments whose geographical features and relation to a larger environment show similarities, which make comparisons both possible and relevant; last, the previous knowledge and long experience of the research team on each of the two regions have been taken into account, so that a detailed understanding of the local situations may support the comparative approach.

Due to history, the two geographical areas show complex combinations of relations between terrestrial areas – continental, isthmian or insular – and the maritime areas which have determined economic specializations since the time of the various colonizations. The present transnational dynamics are re-shaping these patterns , changing the balance of territories which have been strengthened for several centuries between the highlands and the coastal territories , between longitudinal (transcontinental) and transverse (trans-oceanic) axes following selective modalities depending on both the points of view of the actors and of the territories depending on private and public investment and the new forms of polarisation.

The selected approach is multi-disciplinary and developed from geography and significantly involving anthropologists, historians and political scientists. From a methodological point of view, questionings will lead on the one hand to the creation of inter-regional trinomials about each of the defined axes and items to be analysed, with cross-assignments making it possible for searchers to enrich their analyses and on the other hand, to a task of theoretical re-assessment taking into account the thematic studies that have been produced in a transversal way.

The project is based on an institutional framework including three collaborating French teams: SEDET (CNRS/PARIS 7), CASE-LASEMA (CNRS/EHESS), CEMCA (Ministère des AffaIres Etrangères, Mexico). All three are widely acknowledged for their work in the mentioned fields. In a true partnership with the searchers from the Suds, the programme involve local research teams, including the University of Costa-Rica, the CIESAS in Mexico and the NERI in Laos. The program is also involving thesis and post-thesis students (French students and French scholarship-holders) as full members of the program. The activities that have already been initiated by some searchers will make it possible for others to gain easier access to the different fields, thereby enabling new searchers to begin their work in good conditions.

Conception : AGAT