Prof. Dr. Jussi S. Jauhiainen, University of Tartu
Prof. Dr. Jouni Häkli, University of Tampere, Finland
Usually, geographical knowledge is linked to policy shaping by means of a number of governance technologies, such as mapping, spatial statistics, storytelling, and visualisation. In order to support particular policy goals, these technologies are filled with conceptualised, politically and ideologically integrated forms of geographical knowledge that we call spatial imaginations. The process of spatial or geographical imagination is an important part of all policies that seek spatial re-organisation of social structures and power relations. In this thesis, the coherence of such spatial imaginations is studied. The thesis consists of four case studies that focus on the production of Estonian history and geography textbooks, efforts to reform the status of provinces in the Estonian administrative-territorial system, reasoning for Estonian national interests in Estonian-Latvian border negotiations, and initiatives to build a cross-border region between the cities of Haparanda (Sweden) and Tornio (Finland).
Drawing on the four case studies, two main conclusions are made. Firstly, inconsistencies in the use of geographical knowledge in policy shaping often proceed from weak strategic visioning and a lack of coordination and cooperation between responsible institutions. The understanding that geographical knowledge is not just an optional set of spatial facts but that it has a constitutive role to play in the formation of social reality (and thus also policy shaping) rarely finds its way into policy strategies and agendas. Therefore, the responsible institutions and subjects have no direct instructions or advice to take into account ideological coherence and the conceptual integrity of geographical knowledge in the process of policy formation. This often results in controversial and disintegrated spatial imagination that gives rise to inefficient policies and the reproduction of spatial injustice more generally. Secondly, the studies also exposed that even if the need for consistent and coherent geographical knowledge is taken seriously, the contextual aspects of imagination, such as access (who and to what extent they could be included in the process), actuality (what could be the optimal time-span in which knowledge would support particular policy goals effectively) and reception (what kind of interests the people, institutions, or governments that are affected by these policies would have) still remain largely overlooked by policy makers.