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The Outsider Advantage: Interviewing Planners and Other Elites in the Polish-German Borderland
Södertörn University, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies.
2013 (English)In: Journal of Settlements and Spatial Planning, ISSN 2248-2199, Vol. 4, no 1, 101-108 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

As conducting interviews with elites is increasingly common, an important debate has emerged around the researcher’s positionality as an insider/outsider also in a geographic sense. Three standpoints can be distinguished. Initially, some emphasised the advantages of the insider in eliciting interesting and sometimes even sensitive information from informants. More recently, several scholars suggested that this position is never stable. Our experiences are however more in line with those who demonstrated the advantages of being an outsider. Coming from outside the study area may be particularly helpful when interviewing elites on sensitive issues such as contacts in a borderland with a troubled history, like between Poland and Germany. Our 38 interviews reveal three patterns. First, blaming the other side is not unusual on both sides of the border. Second, de-emphasising the importance of cooperation is more common on the Polish side, but also occurred on the German side. Finally, a discourse of re-establishing the historically coherent region is clearly present on the German side, but lacks almost entirely on the Polish side. It is doubtful whether we would have been able to elicit such attitudes from both studied groups had we belonged to either one of them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 4, no 1, 101-108 p.
Keyword [en]
cross-border cooperation, German-Polish borderland, elite interviews, insider, outsider
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Human Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-102145OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-102145DiVA: diva2:708391
Funder
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 3016801
Available from: 2014-03-27 Created: 2014-03-27 Last updated: 2014-03-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Perpetual borders: German-Polish cross-border contacts in the Szczecin area
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Perpetual borders: German-Polish cross-border contacts in the Szczecin area
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Borderlands are often peripheral geographically, administratively, and economically. A particularly illustrative case is the Szczecin area at the border between Poland and Germany, where a large city on one side neighbours to a sparsely populated hinterland on the other. There is a number of similar cases throughout Europe, but studies on them point to a mixed level of linkages following the opening and removal of the physical border.

At the project’s start there were few if any studies on the Szczecin area per se, which was here studied through various methods. On the one hand, different pre-EU enlargement plans and visions for the area’s development were compared with practices and realities of recent years. This shows that earlier imaginations on the development potentials have not quite materialised, although some of them were probably too optimistic and ambitious from the beginning. Some of the area’s potentials following EU-enlargement have been more successfully exploited than others, and disproportionately by actors coming from outside. On the other hand, cross-border contacts were studied in the discourses on and attitudes towards the other side among local and regional elites, and among local residents more generally. This revealed a polarised attitudinal landscape, not least when compared to country-wide opinion surveys in both Germany and Poland. This is in line with other studies showing that identities are particularly accentuated in border situations, where the Other is more frequently encountered.

These results support recent investigations pointing to a continued relevance of the border even after the physical barriers are removed. At the same time, another contribution of this work to border studies is that the time and contingency of the importance of identities and of the border needs more attention. In the Szczecin area, awareness of national identities and of the boundary appeared to be particularly high just after changes in the border’s status occurred – i.e. in 1989–1991, and then around the years 2007–2010. But while its importance may be fluctuating over time, given the opportunities and resources the boundary provides it will always be maintained in some forms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, 2014. 74 p.
Series
Meddelanden från Kulturgeografiska institutionen vid Stockholms universitet, ISSN 0585-3508 ; 145Södertörn doctoral dissertations, ISSN 1652-7399 ; 92
Keyword
cross-border regional development, Polish-German border, Szczecin, (national) identities, border attitudes, the Other
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Human Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-102146 (URN)978-91-7447-874-7 (ISBN)978-91-86069-89-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-05-09, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 3016801
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript.

Available from: 2014-04-15 Created: 2014-03-27 Last updated: 2014-04-24Bibliographically approved

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