Photo: Borders USA.

At Radboud University Nijmegen I met Peter Weichhart who gave a paper. The published version refers to my joint paper with Earnest Alexander on planning doctrine. (Alexander, Faludi 1996) In Faludi (2018, 49) I distance myself somewhat from planning doctrine. Its strength was in explaining the onetime success of Dutch national planning, prefaced as it was upon focussing on the territory of the Netherlands: ‘territorialism’. As I now see it, proposing a new planning doctrine for a Euroregio straddling the Austrian/German border, Weichhart (2005, 10-13) goes further exploring the potential of doctrine for combatting, rather than enforcing territorialism, starting with giving the region a new name to establish it in common discourse. Maybe my previous concluding that a European planning doctrine was ‘abridge too far’ (Faludi 1996) had been premature. Anyhow, it had been my vain search for European spatial planning to speak of that led my crusading against territorialism.

During visits to Vienna University where Weichhart later taught human geography, we had some good exchanges about the follies of – without calling it that – territorialism. Those we have kept up. Recently, my interlocutor shared with me a chapter (Weichhart 2018) in a German reader on borders. It points out that, whereas the English language has several terms to distinguish between various meanings of ‘border’, the German ‘Grenze’ is ambiguous. I would like to explore the potential of Weichhart’s invoking fuzzy set theory for the discourse also in English. Borders define the distinction between in and out, with positive as well as negative connotations. But things are not always black-and-white: Depending on subjective preference, the same bath water can thus be labeled as hot, warm or cool. ‘Discriminating – and drawing boundaries, too – are matters neither of discovering what is in the nature of the object of comparison nor its attributes but are rather at the discretion of the distinguishing subject.’ (Translation of this and all other passages from its German original are my own.) It follows that each and every border can have positive, as well as negative connotations. Austrian attitudes to Schengen varied for instance from heartfelt relief when it came to the opening the German border to trepidation concerning opening up to the Czech Republic.
Weichhart makes clear also that neither states nor their territories are God-given or in the nature of things. Rather, they are special instances of socially constructed and constituted spaces. Which is grist to my mill:  Rather than immanent, state territories, ‘…have sometime been brought into the world by means of making a deliberate distinction’. They are thus political constructs, but of once established borders of course become part of people’s everyday experience, making them feel as if they, and the states which they define were in the nature of things. That this is not so is of course my message in ‘The Poverty of Territorialism’. (Faludi 2018)
Which takes Weichhart into discussing of how one constructs the self invoking constellations of everyday life such as birthplace, residence and other spatial foci of social interaction. Attachments to such significant places contribute to generating loyality. Which I have experienced, not so much in the sense of attachment to my place of birth, Budapest, next to insignificant for my constructing my self, but to other spaces of my upbringing and socialisation until settling in a welcoming Netherlands, but never forgetting all that has gone on before.
After these self-reflections in light of his theorising, I return to Weichhart summarising his paper. He says of course that borders are constructs: ‘So they must not be seen as intrinsic attributes or as entities “to be discovered”. They always and necessarily emerge when people in their thinking and acting and in their cognitive interpretation of the world postulate the existence of certain objects and their attributes. This pragmatic interpretation also implies that each more concrete rendering of certain ideas of a border depends on those actors that act as “discriminators”. It is furthermore necessary to recognise that border-making distinctions can lead to sharp as well as to fuzzy borders.’
Alexander, E.A., Faludi, A. (1996) ‘Planning doctrine: Its uses and implications’, Planning Theory, 16, 11-61.
Faludi, A. (1996) European planning doctrine: A bridge too far? Journal of Planning Education and Research, 16, 41-50.
Faludi, A. (2018) The Poverty of Territorialism: A Neo-medieval View of Europe and European Planning, Edgar Elgar, Cheltenham, UK.
Weichhart, P. (2005) ‘On paradigms and doctrines: The `Euroregio of Salzburg’ as a bordered space’, in: Houtum, H. van, Kramsch, O., Zierhofer, W. (eds.) B/ordering Space, Ashgate, Aldershot, Hants., 93-108.
Weichhart, P. (2018) ‘Grenzen, Territorien und Identitäten’, in: Heintel, M., Musil, R., Weixlbeumer, N. (Eds.) Grenzen: Theoretische, konzeptionelle und praxisbezogene Fragenstellungen yu Grenzen und deren Überschreitungen, Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden, 43-63.
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