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Societies and Spaces in Contact

Between Convergence and Divergence

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Edited By Milan Bufon, Tove H. Malloy and Colin Williams

This volume represents an inter-disciplinary discussion of some fundamental categories of convergence and divergence, focusing in particular on issues of both social integration and devolution related to ethnos as the space of identity, and demos as the space of polity. The aims of the book are to assess past developments within crucial parts of Central Europe where both conflict and coexistence potentials seem to best represent the actual “unity in diversity” managing dilemma in the continent; to provide an analysis of current approaches to minority protection, language planning, spatial and social cross-border and inter-cultural policies; and to develop an evaluation of the future trends and opportunities for co-operation and re-integration within a local and broader operational context.

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National Minorities, Border Communities and Cross-Border Social Cohesion: A Case Study in Central Europe (Milan Bufon)

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Milan Bufon

Borders have always been a subject of intense geographical research as they divide different homogenous or functionally co-dependent areas (regions) on the one hand and different administrative and political units defined by joint administration, ‘property’ and social identification or affiliation (territories) on the other. Spatial ‘demarcation’ thus ‘decomposes’ a common geographical area into individual units according to a variety of criteria mostly related to natural, cultural and social spheres (Bufon 1996a). Taking into account both criteria of functionality and homogeneity, the process of spatial differentiation evolves ←65 | 66→in accordance with either inductive (bottom-up) or deductive (top-down) systems of logic. As a result, an ‘open’ geographical area can witness simultaneous formation of very different more or less formally organized units (a common political space, a common functional space, a common cultural space), which can ‘co-exist’ at different levels of social life and are subject to constant change in time. This fact makes both geographical and social areas relative in nature and leads one to the conclusion that individuals and social groups can ‘interpret’ and ‘understand’ it in a variety of manners within the context of ‘conceptualization’ of place and space (Massey 1995). Social groups establish not only ‘real’ political, administrative and spatial planning units or borders, but also ‘imagined’ cultural and social boundaries based on the perception and construction of different cultural and social environments and influenced by different existing lifestyles and customs, historical circumstances, etc. As Paasi has noted recently (Paasi 2014), border studies have...

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