The border: a fetish object of political geography, fluctuating forms and effects

De Baripedia

On the border can crystallize daily realities, sometimes it is the tragedies that crystallize there. The border has forms and a number of effects.

The border is a central object of geography and even a fetish object of political geography. The border has forms and a number of effects related to its presence.


When we think of the border, we generally think of the border of the modern state[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The border is both fixed and linear:

We can see a fixed border with the Berlin Wall in the Cold War years and the border of Borduria in Tintin and the Sunflower affair. In the second case, we have to make a boundary that materializes only by a boundary post that is an imaginary line not materialized by a device.

To cross the border is to pass into another legal order and for a citizen is to leave the area of his nationality in front of a foreigner with important consequences.

The border is not just a line, the international border is also a plan. This may concern the earth's surface, but also waters, maritime surfaces, but also air spaces.

Boundaries are not lines but planes.jpg

The border has not always been fixed and linear, it can become mobile[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

A whole series of realities does not take the form of a fixed line, because the border has not always been fixed and linear. During the pre-modern periods (ancient and medieval periods), but also during the modern period, there were borders that took the form of extensive zones. To delimit the space of sovereignty, one spoke of "steps", but one can also speak of "confines" and "buffer zones". In other cases, the term "front" could also be used to delineate areas of sovereignty, i.e. areas of constant change that were gradually appropriated as the frontier progressed with the pioneer front. Thus the border is the limit of the space that makes the appropriation of a community.

The administrative and contemporary geography is heir to the original modes of operation as some enclaves sometimes in the current contemporary divisions based on fixed limits in time and space of the enclaves persist.

Today, there is a major change in the materialization of borders and in the performance of border-related functions. These changes make the border appear mobile. There are borders which are linked to persons, that is to say that each individual can take with him the elements of the border, because he is likely to be controlled almost everywhere thanks to the traceability of the data which he can take with him which makes it possible to control persons independent of the simple act of crossing the border. There are also people who have portable rights offering them the possibility of freeing themselves from certain constraints linked to the status of foreigner which they can carry everywhere and which allow them to cross borders more easily.

Conversely, it has constraints that can be carried by people. The very idea of border control is no longer necessarily on the agenda. Sometimes border control operations can be planned at the place of departure. This is a relocation of the border operation well beyond the border itself. There are other forms of extended borders that are shared management perimeters.

Two kinds of boundary regimes.jpg

We are seeing the emergence of a mode of administration and delimitation of the border:

  • A classic mode of representation that makes one belong to one entity making what belongs to the other entity something different and external from the entity to which one belongs.
  • A shared space in which cooperation and sovereignty are shared. Thus the true border is pushed beyond what makes a sharing of sovereignty. These formulas are multiplying today, both to manage areas of human concentration and to facilitate their management. To facilitate the management of these areas, an administration is being set up that has the power to plan the future of a region in a shared area, as is the case, for example, with Greater Geneva.
Map of Southern African Peace Parks

Dans the borders have been established reserves or national parks because these areas are sparsely populated. For these reasons, some border regions are sparsely populated and may be dedicated to nature and environmental protection.

Sometimes we have national park systems that are entities of the same nature, but on either side of a border. What we are developing today is an organization of cooperation between national management bodies or even mergers to create a transnational protected area.

In southern Africa, since the early 1990s, a series of such operations have been set up with "Peace Parks" instead of confrontation zones.

The idea is to cancel the border reality by creating a single large park within which wildlife and tourists can move freely unlike African populations showing a number of limits. However, the border becomes a place of cooperation instead of a place of confrontation.

The contemporary border does not tend to fade completely, but globalization is leading to a new hierarchy of borders and their meanings pushed beyond areas of cooperation.

There would be good and bad borders[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Ideologically, the very idea of an international frontier is often the subject of philosophical criticism, because the international frontier would be a sort of temporal way of managing a humanity divided into different nationalities. The border would be a necessity whose vocation would be to disappear.

For others, the potholder is necessary, because the differentiation of identities makes it possible to create a relational balance. These are differentiations that could make it possible to exchange and collaborate, including peacefully.

The international frontier is the subject of qualitative assessments: we are used to thinking that certain frontiers are good frontiers because established on lines that make sense according to rational principles, on the contrary, we consider that there are bad frontiers because they have not been established arbitrarily on lines that include discontinuities.

Behind this opposition, there is the notion of a natural border that would be good borders. Part of French historiography has tried to show that the constitution of the French kingdom and then the French Republic corresponds to a logic over a long period of affirmation of a national territory that has gradually come to find its good borders. There would be a physical discontinuity (ridge line separating two mountain slopes, a watercourse separating a left bank from a right bank) that is characterized in the landscape. The whole ideology of the natural border is to associate to these physical limits virtues in cultural and political terms. They would be borders based on physical discontinuities and political and cultural legitimacy, since they would separate two nations on either side of that border.

The natural border is not based solely on a physical discontinuity, it is the idea that there would be a good border which is based both on a physical discontinuity and on the virtue of delimiting two neighbouring but very different nations.

This idea of a natural boundary was deconstructed because it was part of the construction of national myths that legitimize nations. These myths are based on a whole series of events taken from history and geography.

The wrong border would be the completely arbitrary border imposed from outside by a foreign power, as is the case in particular with colonial borders that were imposed as part of settlements.

To sum up, the right border would be the natural border and the wrong border would be the imposed straight border. In the face of these speeches, several things must be remembered.

It is extremely rare for physical, cultural, political and historical discontinuities to overlap. The myth of the perfect border where these discontinuities overlap is a myth.

Cartoon by Sacrava (on the web at

This illustration raises the problem of an element of the Khmer cultural heritage and the natural boundary that does not correspond to the same discontinuity. Whether one claims in the name of physical discontinuity or in the name of historical and cultural discontinuity can lead to conflict. The border is based on pretexts that can be a physical microdiscontinuity that will allow the border line to materialize, but that does not necessarily have a major element. It actually depends on a given moment when the state uses its power relations and decides to choose this limit as legitimate.

Concerning the bad border, which is arbitrary, it should be noted that the imposition of the border from outside creates a clear cut which hinders the exchanges which can exist within this community, but also hinders the possible will to have a power or management methods which concern the whole community. These arbitrary borders have radically disrupted the way they used to function.

To criticize in the long run a so-called arbitrary geometric boundary refers to a certain ideology.

As regards arbitrary colonial borders, if we believe today that a good part of African problems are linked to the colonial heritage, we should redefine the borders on cultural or ethnic borders. On the contrary, a community and a national society may be seen to bring together individuals or groups from different backgrounds rather than nationals from the same community and thus be based on a principle of cultural or ethnic homogeneity.

When one criticizes the arbitrary border and the maintenance of an arbitrary border completes, but which may seem less arbitrary after a certain time because structures have developed from this delimited, this refers to an approach that will favour ethnic homogeneity as the basis of nationality.

The natural border remains a reference figure in Western Europe.

The world most dangerous border.jpg

This image shows how certain international borders are also geopolitical hot spots, major lines of confrontation that continue to have a clear opposition between nation-states.

The border effect is multifaceted[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Another central idea in geography revolves around the "border effect"; from the moment an international border is set up this generates numerous effects which are reflected in the landscape, but also in society through exchanges and movements or on the contrary a limitation of exchanges and movements.

The introduction of an international border results in the existence of differentials: this is a difference that can be exploited.

Differentials make it possible to set up a whole activity based on its exploitation. In other words, when you can exploit a difference, that difference becomes a differential. The exploitation of a differential generates particular forms with agglomerations that will develop more on the side of one border than the other, but also capital movements that will play on differentials.

The differential effect will be more or less important according to their number and their importance. There are borders that have few differentials, unlike other borders that generate many.

It is therefore possible to prioritise borders according to their political or administrative status:

  • Sub-national administrative boundaries such as municipal boundaries that are below the administrative-political level;
  • cantonal boundaries that are sub-national, but larger than the municipal boundary;
  • international borders.
Supranational European Bodies.png

This figure shows how within the greater Europe there are assemblies at supranational level with variable geometry. For example, Switzerland is part of the Schengen area and therefore part of an important European hard core with a certain number of States that have joined forces to facilitate the movement of persons within the Schengen area, while they have also joined forces to strengthen the control of persons coming from outside the Schengen area, which means that the border is facilitated by individuals.

The Swiss border is nowadays extremely easily crossed in terms of individual movement, movement of capital and goods, however it remains hard is important which generates differentials in terms of tax law and in monetary terms for example. The monetary differential will be exploited creating differentials in terms of rent, work, salary level.

One can prioritize borders with international borders within the central core that almost completely disappears, conversely when one crosses the border that corresponds to a group that has a common policy one is then on a more important border that generates differentials.  Pour illustrate the border hierarchy, this image is the representation of the number of deaths related to the attempted border crossing related to the attempted border crossing. The easiest sites are identified to attempt the crossing that refers to a permanent reality.

1993-2004 , plus de 4 000 morts aux frontières[11]

Hard borders are appearing, because today with globalization we are certainly not in an era of disappearance of the border, some borders are fading, but others are strengthening functioning as interfaces with other parts of the world.

As regards the crossing of the border by persons, we have hard borders which are reinforced by the Schengen border.

Umr 8504 geographie-cité.jpg

This figure shows a hierarchy of borders according to the level of development.

The authors tried to see that they were the most important oppositions in terms of wealth levels in this part of the world. We see that the major break is occurring between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. These are borders where there is a significant level of differential.

There is a gap between the interface between the level of wealth and the political interface which is constituted by the borders of the European Union and the Schengen border.

A Zimbabwaen refugee looks over the border fence from the South African side May 27, 2008 near Musina, South Africa. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)[12]

At the same time as the peace parks were being established, a hard border was being established to prevent and limit the possibility of illegal crossings from or through Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

One can very well have a movement the relative erasure of borders, the establishment of zones of shared sovereignty and at the same time the establishment of new walls that aim to prevent or stop population movements.

Border are thicker in developing regions.jpg

Ce planisphere presents the international borders hierarchized according to their barrier effect, they are borders that limit activity or movement.

This card deals with the crossing of the border for commercial purposes. On this map we see that the African and Asian borders appear much harder to hinder trade than the European, American and South American borders. This map implies that one is a brake on African development would be the existence of customs barriers, but this is debatable.

Boundaries can be prioritized according to their effect in terms of differential, but also in terms of barrier effect that hinders movement.

Basics functions of borders.png
Fonctions combinées de la frontière.png

These two tables show that the boundary can have several functions and that these different functions are reduced by different effects:

  • barrier function: existence of a demarcation in the form of a border that is more or less difficult to cross
  • interface and relationship: is translated by contacts, beyond cooperation, exchanges of chords, meditation, etc.
  • differentiation of two systems on either side of the border: existence of differences that can be translated as differentials with asymmetry on both sides and thus inequality
  • affirmation of a common project: this is the case of transboundary areas asserting themselves on the basis of a double reality.

These are four basic functions that translate into effects and shapes.

The Geneva cross-border conurbation: an integrated cross-border area?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The agglomeration of Geneva is an agglomeration of important dimension which does not, however, make it a megalopolis. It has about 1 million inhabitants, integrating an intercantonal and transnational dimension with neighbouring France. On a European scale, this agglomeration is a large city.

This cross-border conurbation has set up cooperation institutions to manage itself beyond the administrative divisions. Previously this agglomeration was called the Franco-Valdo-Genevois agglomeration project, today it is called Le Grand Genève, which includes the canton of Geneva, the neighbouring part of the canton of Vaud and the French departments of Ain and Haute-Savoie.

Can we talk about an integrated cross-border area?

This agglomeration is functionally based on the exploitation of a differential, namely the level of wages on either side of the border, but also on the differential in access to housing.

The cost of housing is much higher on the Swiss side than on the French side, market forces tend to increase prices on the French side and to reduce the differential without however absorbing it. This creates a movement of people who are more likely to reside on the side where access to housing is lower and work on the side where pay is higher. For Geneva employers, it is the guarantee of having a relatively abundant workforce attracted by the proposed wage levels making Geneva an important employment hub, because in the decision of entrepreneurs to settle in Geneva this labour pool is an argument.

Functionally one can understand the shape of the Geneva agglomeration and its mode of functioning and the movements present within the agglomeration by the differentials of salary level and access to housing.

These differentials are exploited by border workers who are also called "naveters", people who work in the centre and live on the periphery. This pendular movement is made by crossing an international border, which is why they are called border residents: the majority of border residents have a nationality different from that of the heart of the conurbation. There are also Swiss borderers who participate in the pendular movement, because they are looking for a more accessible accommodation than what they could find on the canton of Geneva.

One of the elements that is a characteristic of this agglomeration is the shortage of housing that exists in the central part of the agglomeration.

The diagram above shows the difference between the commuters who travel to the central part of the agglomeration compared to those who travel the opposite way. It can be seen that the number of border residents is increasing, while the number of border residents in the opposite direction is on the one hand small and stagnating.

Graphique border.jpg

This diagram is taken from a scientific article comparing certain European conurbations which are cross-border conurbations and which have a cross-border development project. On the horizontal axis the functional integration axis appears, i.e. the more integrated it is on the functional plane it will be on the right and vice versa. An agglomeration with little integration would be an agglomeration in functional terms that would not really be an agglomeration, but a border region where there are two agglomerations on either side of the border that function relatively autonomously; on the other hand, there is an agglomeration based on the existence of cities on either side of the border, but grouped together in a common agglomeration with very important exchanges, particularly in terms of manpower and commuting movements.

A hierarchy is also proposed in terms of institutional hierarchy. If the agglomeration has an institution that can take on a certain number of functions in terms of service management or planning, we will consider that we have functional integration. The authors have situated Luxembourg at a relatively low level with an embryonic functional integration, there is the large region that integrates Luxembourg and the neighbouring German and French regions that cooperate, unite and attempt to harmonize their policies. Thus, the authors consider that institutional integration is weak.

When you have significant institutional integration, you are at the top of the hierarchy, as is the case in Basel and Geneva in particular.

Basel is a pioneer in institutional integration. Reggio Basiliensis is an experiment in integrated cross-border management of a number of economic issues at an early stage, particularly in the management of Basel-Mulhouse airport, but also in order to harmonise economic and housing policies on both sides of the border.

Geneva is also considered as a successful experience of institutional integration, because Greater Geneva has a permanent administrative structure and manage with delegates who are sent by the State of Geneva and the French departments of Ain and Haute-Savoie as well as the authorities of Vaud.

It is also a structure that has embarked on an exercise of foresight and planning in order to achieve ambitious objectives in order to solve the major problems of the population that are the pendular movements that generate transport problems and lead to a net imbalance between a central part that has a lot of income and services, and a peripheral part that is essentially a peripheral-dormitory.

To try to remedy this imbalance, the Greater Geneva project has adopted a planning of objectives by trying to reduce the existing differential that poses a problem; that is, by trying to stimulate job creation in the periphery and housing creation in the central part.

Despite the announcement of these objectives, the trend is still towards more housing construction on the French side and more jobs on the Geneva side. Far from narrowing, the differential continues to increase.

Two questions arise:

  • Does the perimeter include the entire functional area of the agglomeration?
  • Does the cross-border conurbation remain culturally and politically divided?

At the local level a Swiss city and its French suburbs involved in a common project, but at the regional level a functional area still divided[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

We first focus on two aspects. First we will look at the perimeter and shape of the Geneva conurbation, then we will look at certain cultural and political aspects, notably the emergence of an anti-border movement.

Google earth geoprahie a1.png

This image was taken from GoogleEarth, it is the approximate perimeter of the agglomeration Franco-Valdo-Genevoise. We see the main French suburbs integrated into the agglomeration project and almost the entire canton of Geneva.

Sce projet d'agglomération bis.png

These maps provide a historical reconstruction of Geneva's growth.  In the 19th century, there were small morphological agglomerations centred on Geneva with the existence of micro-agglomerations located essentially within the canton of Geneva. The French periphery functions in the Geneva orbit with the existence of a free zone in order to facilitate the supply of Geneva beyond the cantonal border with the junction of this free zone on France and Savoy. In terms of agglomeration, everything happens in the canton of Geneva even if there is a polarisation of the agricultural peripheries beyond the borders.

In the middle of the 20th century, the Geneva conurbation spread inside the canton, but also in the outskirts there are other conurbations. On the other hand, small agglomerations are beginning to appear on the other side of the border, such as the Annemasse agglomeration.

At the end of the 20th century - beginning of the 19th century, we can see that urbanisation has progressed considerably. An urban area centred on Geneva has developed, particularly along an axis that extends as far as the French border and includes the Annemasse area.

Within the perimeter of the agglomeration project, we see an agglomeration that has developed as far as Annemasse and internal borders that are at the foot of the various massifs that border the Geneva basin.

Sce projet d'agglomération1.png

We see that the Greater Geneva area includes a very large agglomeration, but does not include all the small towns that operate in the orbit of Geneva. The Cluse valley is outside the urban area, but has been the subject of urbanisation.  The perimeter is dense, but does not include all the agglomerations that operate in the Geneva orbit. Within the agglomeration there is an agglomeration centre stretching as far as Annemasse, but there are also cuts which are not in the exact continuity of the morphological agglomeration of Geneva. In other words, there is an agglomeration with an internal divide between the central part consisting of the central city and its suburbs and then the suburbs and the peripheral cities that are cut off from the centre by the buffer zone. This is a feature that is not found in the urban form of conurbations in Europe.

We can say that there is a form of model, on the perimeter of the township we have the city and suburbs that developed in halo and along some axes, then a green belt namely the agricultural zone that forms the buffer zone.

If we look at the perimeter of Greater Geneva, we must add the French belt, which is also made up of suburbs, but of suburbs that form small punctual agglomerations that is a diffuse peri-urban habitat and then the countryside on the other side of the international border, but also border cities that is even beyond the perimeter of the agglomeration.

In fact two perimeters:

  • Canton perimeter: centre, suburbs, green belt
  • Greater Geneva area: there are suburbs in a non-continuous position vis-à-vis the centre, diffuse housing that nibbles at the green belt and then secondary cities that can be located beyond the perimeter of the agglomeration.
Repartition des frontaliers en 2005.png

There are permit holders in the very first halo, that of the French suburbs, and one finds them diffusely in a very large number of communes distributed over the whole Geneva basin and others which are outside the perimeter of the Greater Geneva area.

Google earth geoprahie a2.png

 When changing of perimeter, if we really want to integrate agglomerations where we find a rather large number of border residents we are obliged to integrate the valley of Cluse and the agglomeration of Annecy.

The agglomeration project disseminates figures, 75,000 French border residents are officially registered, the largest number coming from Haute-Savoie and to a lesser extent Ain. In fact, the movement of border residents goes beyond that, because border residents reside beyond Haute-Savoie and Ain, and especially there are Swiss border residents who are estimated at nearly 30,000 or more. Thus the number of cross-border commuters as a whole is over 100,000.

This is a European study comparing cross-border conurbations in terms of the number of border residents on either side of borders. Geneva stands out because on the one hand it is an agglomeration very concerned by the phenomenon of border residents, but above all Geneva is experiencing an almost exclusive unilateral movement whereas the Luxembourg or Basel agglomeration is characterized by a play of border residents that is multidirectional.

The Geneva conurbation is also characterised by the strong growth in the number of border residents during the 2000s. Around Malmö there is a more important phenomenon linked to the development of infrastructures which facilitated the movement and doped the pendular phenomenon.

Concerning border residents, there is another interesting phenomenon, because it underlined that the tensions that may exist with border residents are in fact based on the one hand on the current crisis period which is leading to tensions, but also on the fact that the phenomenon of border residents in Geneva is changing quantitatively but also qualitatively with, on the one hand, a large number of Swiss going to live in France, but also due to the fact that the jobs created in Geneva are jobs with a high level of qualification. For a long time, there were a relatively large number of higher-level jobs held by Swiss populations and subordinate jobs held by cross-border commuters. We had a hierarchical organisation of work between Swiss and border residents. It appears that the growth of certain sectors has generated highly qualified jobs for which the Swiss population is not sufficiently numerous. We have a new type of foreigner who occupies jobs in Switzerland that were not necessarily local populations, but who are highly qualified executives who can come from very far away, but who are experienced as foreigners who can be assimilated to the global phenomenon of frontier workers. Thus the phenomenon of border residents is increasingly disparate.

An anti-border political movement in the central and Swiss part of the agglomeration: is it a question of cultural distance linked to the urban form and the buffer zone?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

It is in the context of the evolution of the number of border residents, but also in the nature of these border residents that an important political event occurred at the cantonal level which was in October 2009 the important breakthrough of a political movement that based much of its campaign and discourse on the stigmatization of border residents.

Nombre de sièges au grand conseil.png

On the basis of a campaign of this type has achieved a significant political breakthrough.

The question arises as to why this political phenomenon occurred at that time. If one makes an analysis of voting in the context of electoral geography, voting for the GCM can hardly be correlated with a position more or less close to the border, it is not discriminatory. We can see that the heart of Geneva was not very sensitive, whereas a certain number of peripheral communes were not necessarily border communities.

Vote mcg1.png
Vote mcg2.png

On sees a fairly clear correlation with the presence of populations considered as workers. We can deduce that the question of employment was fundamental to explain the breakthrough of this movement. It is possible to consider that this is a crisis vote based on the fear of seeing increased competition on jobs, and in particular on worker-type jobs.

Grand genève ceva.png

Durant in recent years, the question of investment in large cross-border-type developments has become obvious, particularly with CEVA, which will facilitate traffic within the Geneva conurbation and all the way to its peripheral part joining the central parts on the outskirts, particularly in Annemasse. The need to build large infrastructures on this scale can be seen as a source of tension and resistance.

Part of the anti-borders argument was also based on CEVA and on this expensive but important infrastructure, which was presented as something unnecessary, even dangerous. A new theme appears which is that of security giving rise to a security tension leading to a certain fear of seeing the resident populations from other peripheries coming for unfriendly ends.

The question of security may have played a role and, within the framework of an urban area such as Geneva, it is reflected in a centre-periphery relationship with a centre, part of a differential, which is the subject of a certain delinquency from the periphery. This may be an argument related to the security issue linking the centre of the agglomeration to its periphery on the other side of the border.

Geneva, which was an important regional capital through the adoption of the Reformation, transformed this city into an isolated space that played on cards other than that of regional capital. By adopting the reform in opposition to its immediate environment has chosen to invest primarily in international trade networks. It is a vocation that continues to exist today, Geneva being a global city even if it does not have the dimensions of a megalopolis and is not located in a megalopolis. Rather, Geneva cultivates a position as a regional capital that helps to isolate the central part of the agglomeration from its regional environment.

To try to understand everything that exists and puts distance between center and periphery, it is necessary to call upon a whole series of factors that work at different scales.

One could multiply the illustrations on Geneva's international positioning more than as a regional capital. This does not prevent an investment in the agglomeration project is a kind of absolute necessity, it is lived first and foremost as a global city, but operates within the framework of an agglomeration that has become cross-border.

But before Geneva presents itself as an isolate in relation to large global cities. A combination of factors can explain the tensions that exist between the centre and the periphery.

Today, the agricultural zone is at the heart of many discussions concerning the housing problem. It is located within the canton of Geneva and can be seen as functionally legitimate with a centre, a periphery and beyond a green zone of leisure and agricultural production. It is a rather logical areal succession that can be legitimized by a discourse that deals with the current circuits with the need to feed itself with a production of global origin and therefore here too it comes to reinforce the arguments in favour of an agricultural zone close to the agglomeration. It has a legal existence which is linked to the transcription which is a federal rule which is the obligation for all cantons to have an important agricultural production area.

The idea of the capacity to produce part of agricultural production at federal and cantonal level is linked to the idea of neutrality and also to have a certain self-sufficiency capacity in case of problems with the neighbourhood. In other words, to accompany the principle of neutrality, we must also acquire a certain autonomy that requires a certain capacity for self-sufficiency.

However, in the case of Geneva, we are in a special case, because it is a canton in the form of a city-anton. Imposing an agricultural perimeter within a township is less self-evident than imposing an agricultural zone in a larger township. This principle is based on legal provisions that protect it. The argument of the short circuit of local production is much more recent and reinforces the vision of the utility of local production.

That said, all these arguments in favour of an agricultural zone are challenged by two facts: If we change scale, because of this agricultural zone, part of the urbanization is pushed beyond the border, and then this generates consumption of agricultural land, and also generates a transport problem since the populations reside all the more in the centre, all the more so as the agricultural zone creates a sort of cut-off between part of the outskirts and the centre where jobs are located. Part of the urbanisation is pushed beyond the agricultural zone, it is no longer the outer ring of the agglomeration, but an intra agglomeration zone which seems less logical and questionable because it generates urban planning problems.

  • the shortage of housing is another problem, because the production of housing on the building part of the canton is quite insufficient to try to resolve part of the housing crisis. There is a whole speech about the fact that the Geneva housing crisis could be resolved without affecting the agricultural zone. There are the supporters of densification of the existing fabric, the supporters of the restructuring of the villa areas. These are complex operations that have to be carried out extremely slowly, because the land problem must first be resolved; it is a solution for resolving the crisis, but there is a whole debate on the question of decommissioning the agricultural zone that is needed.
Genève enjeux paysagers.png

We see the state of urbanization on the perimeter of the agglomeration project, we also see the areas of high tension. In fact, there is a fairly clear division between the continuous agglomeration and a sparsely populated agglomeration, which then functions on diffuse and linear habitats; between this agglomeration and this system of periphery of the agricultural zone and the green zone. This gives the strange appearance of an agglomeration that has a buffer zone within it while it is experiencing many problems of population displacement. 

Googlemap frontière france suisse1.png

Dans In the Annemasse conurbation, we see that on the Swiss side, there is an agricultural zone with villages and a set of undeveloped fields, while on the other side of the border there is an almost continuous built fabric. It is an illustration of the phenomenon of the agricultural zone.

Googlemap frontière france suisse2.png

We see vast nested spaces that must be subject to decommissioning and housing production, but which face multiple oppositions in the name of agricultural protection.

Googlemap frontière france suisse3.png

Ici, the issue of agricultural areas comes to prevent the upgrading of existing equipment, the school had planned new annexes, but which was rejected. Thus, the existence of the agricultural zone paralyses the development of the Geneva agglomeration. On the other hand, the existence of the internal buffer zone may play a role in the division of the Geneva agglomeration on a cross-border scale. 

Effort de construction de logements entre 2002 et 2007.png
Girault schema zone agricole.png

Ce diagram tries to give meaning to several phenomena that are strange phenomena: the presence of the agricultural zone within the agglomeration and an isolationist movement that translates into political tensions vis-à-vis border residents. These are two phenomena, one with a special translation and the other not that we can try to explain in the context of the operation of a fairly complex cross-border conurbation that requires explanations to be found in different registers.

The agricultural zone finds its origin in the ideology and the implementation of the ideology of neutrality which calls for a certain capacity of autarky. It also finds in the promotion of short production circuits of quality, local and regional. It may also have its origin in the fact that the housing crisis that the agricultural zone is helping to maintain provides a rental income for a certain number of actors who may be individual, private or even collective actors, or even public or parapublic bodies. We may wonder about the fact that the rental income linked to the housing crisis is not a factor which is an advantage to see the agricultural zone maintained.

One of the effects of the agricultural zone is to distance the periphery from the other side of the border. This effect may play a role in the cultural diffusion that is maintained by certain aspects inside the Franco-Valdo-Geneva agglomeration. This distance from the periphery may contribute to maintaining tension between different categories of populations depending on their origin and location.

This phenomenon of tension vis-à-vis frontier workers can be explained from a cyclical point of view by the economic crisis and fears about employment, particularly low-skilled employment. However, we are obliged to restore this type of political movement within the framework of the opposition that exists over the long term between the city of Geneva and its environment that has long been hostile to the city and towards which the city had to defend itself and had to play the card of external cooperation instead of the link with and its environment.

Moreover, behind is the wage and housing access differential, which is a powerful driving force behind this population exchange game that is looking for work on one side and housing on the other. This is one of the explanations why the French periphery functions above all as a dormitory suburb and a residential space.

With this scheme, factors of a different nature are mobilized that can also be used to try to understand more specific elements that are observable within this agglomeration.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

  1. Page personnelle de Frédéric Giraut sur le site de l'Université de Genève - Departement de Geographie et Environnement
  2. Page personnelle de Frédéric Giraut sur le site de l'Université de Genève - Gouvernance de l'Environnement et Developpement Territorial
  3. Publications de Frédéric Giraut diffusées sur
  4. Profile de Frédéric Giraut sur
  5. Profile de Frédéric Giraut syr
  6. Profile de Frédéric Giraut sur Google Scholar
  7. Page de Frédéric Giraut sur
  8. Publication de Frédéric Giraut sur
  9. Page de Frédéric Giraut sur
  10. Page de Frédéric Giraut sur
  11. Sources - carte 2006 : Olivier Clochard (Migrinter), Alain Morice (CNRS, Paris), United for Intercultural Action, Gibraltar : Association des familles de victimes de l’immigration clandestine (AFVIC), police aux frontières (PAF) des ports de Nantes et de la Rochelle, Jean Christophe Gay, Les discontinuités spatiales, Economica, Paris, 1995, Le Monde, AFP, Reuters, AP, Eleftherotypia (Athènes). url:
  12. Xenophobia in South Africa; 2014. Xenophobia in South Africa. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 10 Apr 2014].