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Title: The changing geographies of international municipal relations in Europe: a study of British-German town twinning partnerships
Authors: Grosspietsch, Julia
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: © Julia Grosspietsch
Abstract: Since the end of WWII, the establishment of the very first European town twinning partnerships between the UK and Germany has been followed by thousands of twinning partnerships and millions of citizens travelling across Europe taking part in professional, student, family, project, sport or cultural twinning exchanges. However, surprisingly little is known about the history and contemporary practices of town twinning. Although of great relevance to current debates about European identity creation, global cultures, neoliberalism and entrepreneurial cities, politics of scale and transnational urban networks, only very few geographers have seriously investigated this phenomenon. The aim of this thesis is therefore to analyse the scope of contemporary town twinning practices against the background of the international municipal movement in Europe and to investigate this multi-faceted phenomenon, its organisation, procedures and changing aims from a British-German twinning perspective. More than 60 years after its initiation as a movement for reconciliation and international understanding in Europe, how do current town twinning practices reflect the challenges of a globalised world? The thesis is based on rich empirical research in Bristol, Cardiff, Loughborough, St.Helens, and Hannover, Schwäbisch Hall, and Stuttgart (constituting four British- German town twinning partnerships between them), including interviews with volunteers and professionals involved in town twinning, archival research and participant observation. Themes covered extensively are the usages and impacts of town twinning activities for the creation of European awareness among citizens, and for the promotion of urban competitiveness and cooperation through municipal networking. Since town twinning has developed over the years without a universal definition or guidelines, most municipalities have generated their very own way of doing town twinning, often but not always characterised by dichotomies, such as small towns vs. big cities, citizens vs. local authorities, citizens‟ meetings vs. urban projects, cultural vs. economic objectives, etc. A key parameter for the direction of a twinning partnership is individuals, e.g. mayors or committed citizens, who leave their mark on the partnership's aims, contents, and/or organisation. Hence, the question if town twinning is changing or adapting its aims for a globalised world has to be answered by every municipality individually. However, a general development towards a 'modern' form of town twinning that focuses on economic benefits and short-term inter-municipal projects at the expense of 'traditional' cultural twinning has not been observed. Rather in an increasing number of municipalities, the former complements the latter in a 'contemporary' form of town twinning. This thesis has introduced the 'dark horse' town twinning into the geographical debate, uncovering its history, analysing its current practices, and relating it to relevant social, cultural, urban and political geographical discourses.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/8346
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Geography)

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