Territorial integration under test: spatial justice in the development of remote areas

Rapa Nui, Aysén and Cabo de Hornos are all remote areas, but different from each other, with different forms of governance, of valuing remoteness and the role of State institutions. The project evaluates the development expectations of these territories and their articulation with the centrally defined territorial integration initiatives, emphasizing the inequities and incompatibilities that arise from an approach that prioritizes objectives of national scope over diagnoses made at the local level.

Project details

Duration: 2017-2020
Responsible researcher: Álvaro Román
Sponsoring researcher: Alejandro Salazar
Institutions: Centre for Regional Development and Public Policies Studies, University of Los Lagos; Institute of Geography, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile


Remoteness uses to be approached from a negative view which poses it as a difficulty even before acknowledging especificities and particularities implied by this condition. It is about territories in which we can find unique cultures, or pristine surroundings little intervened, or they can be attractive precisely because they provide experiences of peace and calm, inexistent in highly connected places. However, efforts for territorial integration tend to emphasize homogenisation of living conditions through road infrastructure, services and localisation of productive activities. Chile has been an example for this. Its complex geography is characterised by lagging areas respect of the economic growth found in central areas. Hence the intention for promoting its diffusion to these territories. Nonetheless, not always this process responds to expectations of those who live there because integration to the rest of the country use to be decided with criteria whether centralised or non-pondering adequately the specificities of these places.

Chilean experience of integration to global economy has intensified this scenario risking the exacerbation of territorial and social inequalities. In principle, this is not part of the problem as long as specificities remark heterogeneity. But it is when these inequalities are accompanied by inequities affecting the exercise of rights to those who live in remote areas. Economic opening has been related to deregulation at local level, key for facilitating the incorporation to transnational value chains. Nonetheless, market corrective action is weak. Thus, territorial integration trough economy results in the imposition of development criteria non-related necessarily with the expectations of those living in remoteness.

The complexity of this phenomenon is greater if we consider that statism also does not represent a solution, especially in cases in which remote territories are influenced by a strong identity or an articulated autonomic pretention. The notion of spatial justice opens a debate on the recognition of territorial rights in two levels: one on subjects as bearers of rights and other on the State as the guarantee of rights. Definitions of democracy and political institutionality, local expectations and paradigms and criteria on decisions with territorial scope taken by actors related with a centralised State apparatus play all a role in this discussion. Then, the proposal is to test the approach of territorial integration against the development of remote areas through spatial justice views.

Research problem

The main goal of this project is to understand the expectations of development found in remote areas in Chile. A qualitative design will be applied to collect notions of development, to embrace decisional structures with a territorial scope, and the mechanisms of incorporation or rejection of specific notions of development.

Also, a trajectory of remoteness will be defined for three municipalities as study cases: Isla de Pascua, Aisén and Cabo de Hornos. Isla de Pascua represents a case of remoteness accompanied by a clearly articulated autonomic claim based on ethnic identity. Aisén is an example for remoteness positively valued by its inhabitants, especially in coastal areas, forcing to a distinction between connectivity and provision of public services in terms of integration. Cabo de Hornos is heavily dependent from Navy presence, which is central in its quotidian exercise of national sovereignty.


A debate on difficulties of remoteness in Chile, emphasizing the generation of knowledge to be considered in public decision-making processes, the elaboration of concepts and theory from the cases, the definition of socio-spatial integration and differentiation mechanisms, and the formulation of equity criteria in dealing with remote areas.


Álvaro Román

Centre for Regional Development and Public Policies Studies (CEDER), University of Los Lagos

Lord Cochrane 1056, Osorno, Chile