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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Negotiating asymmetric borders in an emerging soft region

Lexen, Thomas; Qvistrom, Mattias


In contemporary planning, the development of soft regions through inter-municipal collaborations plays an increasingly important role. However, as previous research has shown, local borders and local jurisdiction are likely to remain as part and parcel of the new region. This paper argues the need to consider the geography of such local borders, to reveal asymmetries which could weaken the opportunities for inter-municipal collaboration. Following relational geography, we argue that the municipalities don't necessarily share the same border; if understood as a relational effect, the border plays different roles for each municipality. With this in mind, we offer a case study of how a Swedish local border is being negotiated within planning. The case of Kumla and Hallsberg reveals how one municipality is active in trying to negotiate the border, whereas the other procrastinates around any action which do not lie in their interest. The result is a border haunted by decades of poorly coordinated, even provocative, planning actions. Our study opens up for a discussion on asymmetries and a relational understanding of the geography (and history) of planning, as well as for further studies of the interplay between the renegotiation of the local borders within emerging soft regions.


Border asymmetries; relational geography; soft regions; intermunicipal planning; geography of planning; Sweden

Published in

European Planning Studies
2021, Volume: 30, number: 12, pages: 2353-2372