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Brokerage Within and Between Regions

Deadline: 1st September 2020


Given the importance of extra-local connectivity to regional economic development, the brokerage role of places has gained salience as a research topic of interest. In a theoretical sense, brokerage occurs when an actor connects two others that would not otherwise be well-connected within a network. In practice, it can be understood as the socio-economic positionality particular actors assume due to their historic or unique role as an intermediary node in a network.

How an actor becomes a broker is largely dependent on context – both time and place. In regional studies, brokerage can occur at multiple scales and involve multiple types of actors, often simultaneously. Within regions, brokers can be intermediary firms or individuals whose network connectivities situate them advantageously. It can also take multiple forms, as economic (e.g. ‘intermediaries’), social (e.g. ‘influencers’), and political (e.g. ‘relational actors’) brokers gain influence through their positionality within physical and virtual global networks. This understanding moves beyond the transactional role of brokers (e.g. real estate agents, stock brokers) toward a more structural positionality that facilitates innovation, political development, etc. Cities and regions can also act as brokers between other cities and regions in providing certain knowledges, infrastructures, and socio-political frameworks for intermediary activities to take place. Again, this is highly situational, leveraging liminal qualities such as cultural hybridity, social mixing and political in-betweenness.

Places and the individuals within them benefit from brokerage positions as a result of informational asymmetry based on preferential access to goods, services or knowledge. The same logics apply to the brokerage role of places, which often lie ‘in between’ two systems or scales. Brokerage between cities, for example, provides economic benefit through the network externalities of the intermediation of information, goods, human movements, financial transactions, or -- more commonly -- a combination of these. Such places have been referred to as ‘gateway cities’, ‘entrepôts’, or ‘relational cities’. Regions and other territorial configurations act as brokers in cases where geopolitical or economic relations between two others require an intermediary, with examples ranging from free trade zones and special economic zones to frontier zones and border regions.

Though the study of brokerage has become increasingly nuanced, social understandings of brokerage from regional studies, sociology, and geography have not been well-integrated with mathematical advancements in how brokerage is operationalised within network science. In the social sciences, research has evolved from the various brokerage roles identified by Gould and Fernandez (1992) to underline how one or multiple functions define brokers, and how that changes over time and at various scales. In network science, various algorithms can calculate brokerage either as a function of betweenness centrality, or as a variety of whole-of-network or sub-network parameters.  

Guest Editors

Thomas Sigler (The University of Queensland)

Kirsten Martinus (University of Western Australia)

Zachary Neal (Michigan State University)

Submission Information and Timeline

This special issue aims to innovate upon this through theoretical and empirical cases that introduce new ways of thinking of ‘broker’ nodes in geographic contexts. In bringing these together, we aim to better understand the role of brokers and brokerage within and between regions. This includes the quantitative measurement of brokerage, new forms of intermediacy, and qualitative understandings of place-based brokerage between cities, regions, and states. As such, we invite papers that address topics including, but not limited to:
  • Brokerage nodes as negotiators between spatial levels (local, regional, national, global)
  • Cities and regions as intermediaries, gateways or entrepôts.
  • Spatialities associated with brokerage at network core or peripheries.
  • Role of spatially fixed brokers, e.g. transport interchanges, financial institutions, fibre-optic hubs.
  • The difference between betweenness centrality and other centrality types.
  • How brokerage controls virtual monetary flows to change physical space outcomes, e.g. financial brokerage.
  • Network analysis and innovations in brokerage.
Submission guidelines

All papers will be given full consideration irrespective of theoretical, methodological, or disciplinary orientation. However, papers making empirical contributions that advance understandings of brokerage in cities and regions will be given priority.
Authors interested in submitting a manuscript to this Special Issue are required to first submit an abstract to t.sigler@uq.edu.au by 1 September 2020.

Full papers must be received by 1 December 2020.

Submissions will be subject to the journal’s standard peer review process. Details regarding the publication process, evaluation criteria and style are available on the Regional Studies website.

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