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Contact, conflict and geography: what factors shape cross-border citizen relations?

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Political geographers frequently argue that European borderlands, due to geographical proximity and cross-border contact, are sites of particularly good citizen relations. However, they have not put forward any general theory of the effect of cross-border contact on perceptions. This paper shows that social psychological contact theory, if applied to borderlands studies, can uncover the factors that influence citizen relations across national borders and under what conditions. Using opinion poll data from the Czech-German border region as an example, this paper shows that the Saxon and Bavarian regions bordering the Czech Republic are areas of high interaction density. Mediator analysis is used to decompose the direct and indirect effects of geographical proximity and contact on attitudes towards the Czech neighbours. Contact in the Saxon border region produces more favourable attitudes than elsewhere in Germany. However, contact does not have the same effect in the Bavarian border region: Bavarian attitudes are less favourable than elsewhere in Germany. The paper shows that Bavarian-Czech relations are weighed down by historical stumbling blocks, notably the influence of the post-World War II expellees from Czechoslovakia who are an important political force in Bavaria. The expellees issue demonstrates the need to take into account cultural factors when applying contact theory to the borderlands context.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/31485/

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