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Daria Voyloshnikova

Daria Voyloshnikova is a Ph.D. candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Fribourg. She holds a Master’s degree in International Political Economy and a Bachelor’s degree in Area Studies. Her research has been focused on Environmental Governance and contemporary policies problematic in Central and South-Eastern Europe.

Ecological Regions and Identity Formation

The paper is bound to look at identities from the ecoregional perspective, at the intersection of natural and social sciences (Ecology, Biogeography; Border Studies, Social Anthropology, Political Science etc.). In the domain of ecology, it is a widely accepted approach to divide the sea and land into ecoregions that are large, region-scale ecosystems (Bailey 2002), rarely coinciding with administrative territories. The division reasonably ignores the lines traced by political geographers, and thus leaves many of the eco-units transboundary in the understanding of managing authorities and, hence, with a burden of respective environmental management problems common for many regionalisation formats. One of the challenges at such scale is fostering ecoregional governance and administration structures. This employs considerable symbolic, social, and political capital that, first, is often in deficit on the ground, and second, cannot usually be substituted by monetary allocations from budgets of various levels. Therefore, the questions of ecoregional identity, capable of consolidating all the non-material capital, and thus, of potentiality for regional-scale self-organization, comes to the forefront. The hypothesised type of ecoregional of identity is akin territorial identity: centred around physical objects subject to certain classification,
understanding of one’s place in the grid of ecological relations, and stimulation by environmentally disruptive events. The underlying study explored in a constructivist key environmental governance in the Carpathians. There, both the rugged terrain of the region and the symbolic division-fashioning work undertaken by people play a major role in forming the auto-perception of the locals, and conspicuous institutional effort can be noticed when it comes to shaping identity of and with the region (Paasi and Zimmerbauer 2012), while ecology is all but marginal to it. Without losing contemporary reterritorialisation processes and Europeanisation agenda out of sight, the paper analyses identity formation factors and mechanisms, as ecological spatial partitioning is being matched with popular representations. Besides, it yields conclusions on how identity is leveraged in environmental policy implementation in border areas.
Key words: identity formation, ecoregion, environmental governance