Geographical Boundaries as Places of Meeting and Diffusion of Cultural Traits

  • Stefano Malatesta
  • Marcella Schmidt di Friedberg
  • Enrico Squarcina


Boundaries are a well-established object of enquiry within contemporary human geography. “In a variety of formats and intensities, boundaries continue to demarcate the territories within which we are compartmentalized, determine with whom we interact and affiliate, and the extent to which we are free to move from one space to another” (Newman 2003:, D. Boundaries. In J. Agnew, K. Mitchell, G. Ó Tualthail (Eds.), A companion of political geography (pp. 121–137). Malden-Oxford: Blackwell, 2003). These observations prompt analysis of the ongoing geopolitical and cultural action of these political institutions in all their forms, even if we view contemporary spaces as de-territorialized and borderless and even if the public discourse describes regions merely as elements within a wider global network. In any case, material and immaterial limits are meaningful sources of information for reading the structure of territories and understanding their social, cultural, political and historical relationship: boundaries leave landmarks, directly related to their geopolitical function, on landscapes; these landmarks become both objects of human perception (primarily visual) and subjects within processes of political representation (landscapes); boundaries are the primitives of spatial knowledge on which humans build their geographical images of places; boundaries are a mighty basis of the mimetic function played by cartographic language. Thus, in light of both their physical and narrative dimensions, it may be argued that geographical boundaries, rather than being limits or barriers, are material places directly involved in the diffusion of cultural traits; or go even further, it may be claimed that in border regions, these material objects act as peculiar cultural traits which we term “symbolic borderplaces”.


Boundaries Borderscapes Symbolic places Relic boundaries Memory 



We would like to thank Clare O’Sullivan for her language revisions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefano Malatesta
    • 1
  • Marcella Schmidt di Friedberg
    • 1
  • Enrico Squarcina
    • 1
  1. 1.“Riccardo Massa” Department of Educational Human SciencesUniversity of Milano - BicoccaMilanItaly

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