Political Institutions, Elites, and Territorial Identity Formation in Belgium
Territorial identities in Belgium require a political rather than a cultural or structural explanation. The forces behind the development of identities in Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels and the German-speaking area are similar to the ones that produced the Belgian identity they are challenging. Political institutions and elites are at the heart of the process of territorial identity formation in Belgium. The emergence of Walloon and Flemish identities in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the by-product of a struggle between the dominant French-speaking bourgeoisie and the traditional Flemish lower bourgeoisie within the institutional context of the early Belgian state. Transformations in the party system and reforms to political-territorial institutions in the last 40 years have strengthened these identities and created entirely new ones.