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This paper examines how and why the Norwegian government’s early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic became constructed as a centre–periphery issue in public discourse. By analysing opinion pieces and editorials published in a North Norwegian regional newspaper during the first months of the outbreak, it identifies how a ‘northern peripherality’ discourse emerged and highlighted geographical, infrastructural and political peripheralization processes in response to a dispute over the legality and efficacy of local quarantine restrictions. The paper argues that through interdiscursive anchoring in long-standing political cleavages and associated grievances around centralizing reforms, and through co-optation of government narratives, the ‘northern peripherality’ discourse established a position of vulnerability from which to more legitimately problematize responses to the pandemic as a regional concern. The case empirically highlights the spatiality of social conflicts and protest movements, for example discussed in the emerging literature on geographies of Covid-19. Theoretically, the paper engages with the question of how events such as the pandemic become ‘meaningfully regional’ through processes of (regional) spatialization. It suggests, in conceptual terms, that approaching regions and the regional through horizontal and vertical relations moves past one-dimensional readings of regionalist contestation, emphasizes power-laden relations within and across regions, and avoids replicating a territorial/relational binary.
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