Regions and Spaces: How We Define Them in International Studies

Dimitri Kuvshinov's picture
April 20, 2023 to April 21, 2023
Russian Federation
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Borderlands, Diplomacy and International Relations, Ethnic History / Studies, Research and Methodology

On April 20-21, 2023, the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), Moscow, will host the International Young Scholars Conference “Regions and Spaces: How We Define Them in International Studies”.

The Conference panels will address the following issues:

Panel 1. Regional Spaces as a Research Category: Theory and Methodology

In this panel, we invite you to discuss theoretical approaches to spaces and regions as academic categories. Does the regional division reflect or shape reality? How does one construct spaces and regions? How are the two concepts different? How have notions of regions evolved over time? What methodological framework may be of help in the study of regions? How can maps shape the way we perceive the world? Is there a taxonomy and hierarchy of regional spaces? Can regional framing contribute to symbolic control over territories? What types of spaces can be distinguished? How can this category be useful in analysing international relations? What is the scientific potential of the spatial approach?


Panel 2. The European Jigsaw: New Spaces Inside the Old World

Whilst the economic and political integration that has been actively evolving in Europe since the mid-20th century has altered its course, it nevertheless has not lost its relevance today. The new trend has been heralded by emerging sub-regions, new financial and political centres of gravity, and new sub-regional forums and initiatives. Having left the EU, the United Kingdom now has to establish its own network of partnerships on the continent. The panel focuses on sub-regional dynamics across Europe, emerging regional centres of power, and the formation of cross-border economic clusters.


Panel 3. Eurasia: The Nexus of Visions

The Eurasian region has traditionally held a special place in geopolitical and global economic matters. With Asia’s ascent and the convergence of macro-regional space, the continent is becoming an economic powerhouse as well as a nexus for different visions and narratives. The panel invites discussion of how regional and global powers approach the Eurasian landmass today and sets out to answer the following questions: 

  • The regional powers’ approaches to the Eurasian space: the common and the particular;
  • How is Eurasia perceived by non-regional powers? 
  • How to divide Eurasia into sub-regions? 
  • How can we compare the perceptions and policies of regional and global powers in Eurasia?
  • What is the future of the Eurasian space from the standpoint of the regional actors?


Panel 4. Indo-Pacific vs Asia-Pacific: Differentiating and Reconciling the Concepts

The Indian and the Pacific Oceans have been explored by various agents—empires, nation-states, and individuals—for ages. While their geographic properties have scarcely changed and mostly remain intact, each “explorer” perceives the region in a unique way. In recent decades, it has become a common practice to refer to this world region as the “Indo-Pacific” and the “Asia-Pacific”. Having similar geographic boundaries, the two concepts nonetheless carry different economic and political rationale, and strategic importance. The panel aims to compare different geostrategic and socioeconomic regional concepts (e.g., the Indo-Pacific vs. the Asia-Pacific) and to discuss the following:

  • what constitutes these concepts of the region (economic drivers, international positioning, strategic considerations);
  • how these concepts compare and contrast;
  • how the major world powers perceive these different regional concepts;
  • how military- and infrastructure-related initiatives evolve in different regional formats and affect countries’ development;
  • how the region as a whole engages with non-regional actors (e.g., states, international organisations and business).


Panel 5. Imposed Frontiers: State Borders and Regional Spaces in the Middle East and North Africa

The modern political map of the MENA region emerged in the 20th century. Arbitrarily drawn borders and the mandate system, which included several countries of the region and dramatically altered their further development, laid the foundations for most of today’s conflicts. State and non-state actors alike transform the regional landscape as they question the sovereignty and legitimacy of certain regimes. By transcending international borders, religious, ethnic, and tribal communities redefine the traditional frames of individual and collective identity. The panel proposes to examine the main historical stages in the formation of the region, analyse key trends in its development, and determine their impact on the current state of specific ethno-religious communities and states. 

Key questions:

Has the nature and function of borders changed? How do MENA states perceive the inherited state borders? How do borders influence the identity of regional actors? And how do identity politics on the local or national level redefine the boundaries?


Panel 6. America(s): An Illusion of Unity? 

The panel offers to examine the specifics of the geographical region of the Americas, drawing attention to the patterns and contradictions in the way the regional actors interact at the present stage. Fellow researchers are invited to discuss the following issues:

  • Does it make sense to approach the Americas as a single region?
  • What are the prospects for regional integration projects?
  • The North-South divide: its role in the relationship of the two Americas;
  • Left Turn 2.0: implications for the Hemispheric relations;
  • The diminishing role of the US and the risks for regional security.


Panel 7. Ethnicities Sans Frontières. Exploring Transnational Ethnic Spaces

As anthropologically and culturally close communities inhabit the same or neighbouring territories, antagonisms can be brought about by external as well as imaginary factors. The panel proposes to discuss how the spaces associated with certain ethnic identities can be a factor in international life, affecting the contemporary political agenda and its dynamics.

Fellow researchers are invited to discuss the following topics:

  • theoretical and methodological aspects of ethnicity, or how international relations scholars study ethnic groups;
  • modern interpretations of the concept of ethnos;
  • ethnic identity in the context of divided societies;
  • ethnopopulism and ethnonationalism in the political space of modern states;
  • ethnic diasporas;
  • ethnic conflicts;
  • ethnicity as a resource for development.


Panel 8. The Poles of Gravity: Disentangling Territorial Claims

In recent decades, the Arctic has been increasingly involved in the global economy, with regional and extra-regional countries claiming the use of its transport and resource potential. The Antarctic, on the other hand, has more of a deferred potential for state engagement in the region. The Arctic maritime region and the Antarctic mainland differ fundamentally in terms of the international issues involved, those being the extraction of aquatic biological resources, mineral development, maritime zones of sovereignty and jurisdiction, as well as legal, military and strategic, and logistics matters. Nonetheless, both regions have been witnessing growing attempts on the part of states to find some form of justification for reinforcing their own sovereignty in these regions.

The panel seeks to assess the prospects for the situation in the two polar regions, analyse the legitimacy of certain state claims, outline the existing risks and threats, and identify the present and deferred conflict potential of the Arctic and Antarctic.


Panel 9. The Spectre of Empire: Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

A spectre is haunting the world – the Ghost of the Empires Past. Imperial practices, like the word “empire” itself, have long fallen into oblivion and disrepute. However, the spaces once occupied by the bygone colonial and continental empires are still united by the institutions as well as the political, economic, ideological, and notional ties of the past. The panel encourages researchers to deliberate on the extent to which the “imperial” legacy continues to influence the life of societies today. We propose to discuss the existence of common standards, lasting economic cooperation, common political practices, and similar institutions binding the spaces of former empires.


Panel 10. The Realms of Infrastructure, Technologies, and Standards

Putting the new generation of digital technologies and standards into production has laid the groundwork for the global socio-economic transformation. The very nature of these new technologies implies that they are of great importance for both national competitiveness and security. Economic and social institutions are undergoing significant changes. At the same time, new business models development, along with innovation intensity, vary greatly across countries and industries. This variability increases the risk of uneven distribution of financial and other resources and, consequently, inefficient implementation of plans and policies. Rivalry and cooperation in areas such as the development of critical industries, new technologies, and the digital economy will increasingly determine the interaction between countries within formal and informal multilateral forums, as well as FTAs and EPAs.

We invite you to discuss: 

  • Is the proliferation of cutting-edge technologies and standards, as well as the competition of major economic powers, conducive to shaping new regional spaces?
  • Do the spaces of technology and standards coincide with political boundaries?
  • Are we witnessing digital globalisation or regionalisation?


Panel 11. Regulating Global Spaces: Towards Optimal International Formats 

Please join our panel to discuss the role of international organisations in global governance as well as the issues and challenges related to international law or international regimes. Do varying global formats reflect the regional and spatial realms? Does the development of international institutions lead to the fading of national boundaries and creation of common spaces? Or, on the contrary, are we witnessing a trend towards degradation and fragmentation of the existing international cooperation formats? Can the long-standing institutions develop and transform, or will the new institutions emerge? What is the future of international organisations and international law in a changing world?


Eligibility: Candidates and Doctors of Sciences (PhD or equivalent), as well as graduate and postgraduate students under the age of 40 years are invited to participate in the Conference.

The hosting party does not cover travel and accommodation expenses of the participants and guests of the Conference.

The event will be held in a hybrid format, based at IMEMO, Moscow.

Language of presentations: Russian and English

In order to apply, please complete the electronic form by March 24, 2023

The application should be accompanied by a detailed abstract in either English or Russian, 2000-8000 characters including spaces (1-2 Word pages, Times New Roman, font size 14, single spacing).

The abstract should focus on how specific political, technological, ethnic, religious or other spaces determine the development of international relations.

Conference papers will be published in the IMEMO Global Development series.

The Organizing Committee reserves the right to select materials for presentations and to include them in the collection of articles based on the results of the Conference.


IMEMO Young Scholars Council

Contact Info: 

IMEMO Young Scholars Council
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO),
Russian Academy of Sciences
Moscow, Russian Federation

Contact Email: