Paradiplomacy and political geography: The geopolitics of substate regional diplomacy

05 Feb 2018

Political geographers have increasingly engaged with ‘alternative’ diplomatic practices, actors, cultures, and sites which transcend traditional state-centric modalities. Despite this growing interest, the term paradiplomacy, referring to the international activities of sub-state regions, has not featured heavily in the geographical literature. This paper brings debates surrounding the nature and practices of paradiplomacy into conversation with recent political geography scholarship on diplomacy and, in particular, geopolitics. It begins by introducing the increasingly plural understandings of diplomacy which have challenged dominant state-centric discourse and foregrounded the inherent spatiality of diplomatic practices. This is followed by an examination of the dynamic evolution of the term ‘paradiplomacy’. The paper goes on to suggest how theoretical and methodological insights from political geography could be productively interwoven with the study of paradiplomacy. The final section exemplifies this through an exploration of the geopolitics of sub-state diplomacy. It is argued that by building on methodological insights from critical readings of geopolitics it is possible to offer a multi-scalar analysis of paradiplomacy which contributes to an ongoing project of political geography – to unsettle and challenge ingrained imaginaries which underpin our understandings of the region, the state, and the international political system.