Project Objectives

EUBORDERSCAPES will explore different areas of conceptual change that can be assumed to have concrete impacts on the ways borders both condition and are conditioned by different institutions and actors. In progressing beyond the state of the art, we therefore argue that important connections can be uncovered between borders as a “challenge” to national (and EU) policies and borders as potential elements of political innovation through conceptual (re-)framings of social, political, economic and cultural spaces. This requires a nuanced and critical re-reading and understanding of borders as resources in terms of the exercise of power, the management of conflict, cross-border co-operation, and the everyday negotiation of borders by “ordinary” citizens and non-citizens. State borders also reflect and thus help us interpret tensions as well as points of connection within intercultural and interstate relations. In a very direct manner, these tensions are reflected in the practical consequences of controlling borders through security policies, border and visa regimes and immigration policies at the same time that global interdependencies require more forceful international co-operation.
This project will study the evolving concepts of borders in two ways: 1) as an important reflection of political, social and cultural change and 2) as an indicator of possible responses to this change. We also express concerns regarding the differences that state borders make in societal terms – to the opportunities, aspirations, dignity and recognition of groups and individuals. EUBORDERSCAPES will thus focus on the emerging epistemologies of how state borders are perceived, understood, experienced and exploited as political and social resources. Drawing from various sources, such as key academic debates, political discourses, ethnographic research, media representations and shifting cultural understandings of the construction of national borders, the project aims to shed light especially on tensions between national understandings in terms of demarcations based on ethnicity, citizenship, language and socio-cultural characteristics, etc., and broader supranational/transnational understandings which address borders as areas of contact (and, to an extent, transition) between civilisations, religious and cultural spheres. In doing this, the project will also attempt to illuminate the consequences of restrictive and securitised border regimes for interstate and intercultural dialogue.

Reflecting the ambitious agenda as defined within Topic 4.2.1 and the comprehensiveness and policy relevance expected of a large-scale collaborative research project, EUBORDERSCAPES will develop several of the research dimensions suggested in the Call. These different but largely interlinked research dimensions suggest an agenda for a more complex understanding of state borders. Indeed, our interpretation of these research dimensions and the overall nature of the Call suggest that it is important to link several social, political and methodological issues that at first glance might appear rather disparate. These include:

  • Socio-cultural dynamics and strategies that inform (and link) regional, national, and supranational/transnational notions of borders (e.g. understanding European borders as symbolic representations of different degrees of cultural affinity, familiarity and “otherness”)

  • Questions of governance, democracy, territoriality, solidarity, and legal bases of state sovereignty that are raised by the “securitisation” of borders both between Schengen and non-Schengen EU as well as at the EU’s external frontiers

  • In similar fashion, the practical consequences of hardening EU external borders at the same time that new regional co-operation mechanisms (such the European Neighbourhood Policy) and more open regional economic spaces are being negotiated

  • The development and consequences of everyday forms of transnationalism, border-transcending, border-negotiating and networking, both within the EU and between the EU and “third countries”. Everyday transnationalism is closely linked to issues of intersectionality (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality) as part of the negotiation of borders for work, family, emotional and other reasons. This will also have direct impacts on work, welfare and immigrant rights that could challenge national welfare systems

  • Processes of conceptual change that condition the production of geographical knowledge and representations of regional and cultural spaces that are used to frame social arenas and political landscapes

  • The “mapping” of borders as a methodological challenge that incorporates new ethnographic insights, everyday experience, tacit knowledges of borders and border regions and cultural/emotional encounters at borders into the state of art of border research

  • The potential of borders as resources in the development of different forms of cross-border co-operation and conflict amelioration

The common denominator in these research dimensions addressed in the Call is the fact that shifting concepts of borders are challenging received notions of how states, state territories, citizenship and identity relate to each other. As a consequence, new ways of thinking of and dealing with borders as tools for framing social and political action are required in order to more genuinely reflect their impacts at various spatial levels of socio-cultural, political and economic interaction.

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