Reconceptualising sparsely populated remote edges through the concept of region and space

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Geographic edges are distant, sparsely populated regions understood by some scholars as being fundamentally different from areas classified as rural. In some cases, the epistemological view in relation to sparsely populated regions is deterministic. Here, sparsity is seen as derivations of ‘geography’; relative location as remote and the extreme environmental characteristics of the place. In this paper we argue for an extended conceptualisation for ‘edge’ as a non-predetermined, temporally and spatially dynamic construct where space is ‘dependent’, function of the institutional frameworks. To make this reasoning we first distil the diverse interpretations of edge found in the existing literature into six schools of thought: the expansionist, capitalist, post-(neo-)colonialist, relativist, ruralist and developmentalist. Providing a systematic analysis on the role of ‘space’, ‘society’ and ‘institutions’ within these six schools of thought for edge studies, we than revisit the discourse on region formation within ‘new’ regional geography during the 1980s and 1990s, when geographers departed from viewing regions as unique, pre-defined and timeless ‘containers’. We discuss whether the role of ‘geography’ or ‘institutions’ is pivotal at the edge and propose that space itself (and its characteristics such as sparsity and remoteness) can be considered as dependent on or constructed by institutional frameworks. Finally, based on our findings, we provide some pointers to where and how the scope of edge studies can be extended or adjusted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-403
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


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