Standing Different Grounds: The Spatial Heterogeneity of Territorial Disputes

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Springer Netherlands

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Recent developments in spatial analysis and spatial data have allowed researchers to investigate various geographical factors in the quantitative analysis of conflict and war (Ward in Polit Geogr 21(2):155-158, 2002). Despite the importance of territory in interstate conflict, there has been a limited interest in the application of spatial analysis to the study of territorial conflict. Using geographically weighted regression (GWR) we evaluated the existing explanations of territorial conflict provided by a global scale analysis that assumes a spatial consistency in the explanatory variables. Specifically, we revisited Paul Huth's foundational work by using GWR to examine the spatial pattern in the sign and significance of the variables. The result of GWR shows that the escalation of territorial conflict cannot be fully explained by one universal model. There is a high level of spatial variation in the regression parameters and the explanatory power of the model varies over space. A k-means cluster analysis was implemented for a further investigation of the regional pattern of the underlying causes of territorial disputes. The result of our GWR suggests the necessity and possibility to pursue a local or regional scale approach to the study of territorial conflict, an approach that challenges an epistemology of seeking a single explanation for the causes of conflict that neglects regional context. The spatial heterogeneity in the causes of territorial conflict escalation we find is framed within a narrative of the intertwined processes of colonialism, Cold War legacies, and competition for resources.

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