Public leaders shaping regions? Analyzing practices, relations and discourses of public leaders in (de)peripheralizing regions of Estonia and the Czech Republic
Most studies on leadership in rural regions have been done in a Western European context and do not consider the specificities of the Central or Eastern European context. Rapid institutional changes from planned Soviet societies to radical neoliberal thinking (even further increasing the already existing disparities within Central and Eastern European countries), but also elements of contingency from the socialist past, have created a very different environment for leadership in addressing regional inequalities. Furthermore the emphasis that has been placed on successful leaders of change does not help to understand these regional development processes and merely result in a confirmation of what is assumed to be the successful regional development.
Therefore I will go beyond identifying the “stars” of regional development and analyze the role of public leaders, embedded in (various) institutional environments, and in their (co)shaping of “peripheral” regions. Hereby I will move away from a normative way of ranking leadership experiences and regional performance, but closely analyze the ways that regions are (co)produced or reproduced by local actors. In this way rather than being seen as powerless and economically marginal, regions, and especially their actors can be seen as co-producers (together with civil society and private actors within and beyond the region) in the process of (de)peripheralization. By analyzing the practices, relations and discourses of these individual public leaders, I will unravel their role in processes of (de)peripheralization in Estonian and Czech regions using slow qualitative methods.