Border Complexities

Border Studies has been one of emerging fields in the social sciences and cultural studies for decades. In addition to changes in scientific theory, this is primarily due to recent societal developments and the growing demand for knowledge on border and migration dynamics. It is in this context that Border Studies are now also gradually becoming more institutionalised in Europe and increasingly include more and more disciplines.

Against this backdrop, border studies encompass today a wide range of research topics in the context of borders, ranging from employment, education, spatial planning and politics to history, language and culture. It has become generally accepted that the function and effect of borders can be seen less at the edges of national territories but through the investigation of the processes of their establishment, displacement, infiltration, etc. This perspective prevails in border studies since at least the 2000s with the bordering approach (Paasi 1999; van Houtum 2002; Sahlins 1991; Motsch 2001; Rutz 2018).

The application of this approach shows, however, that the analytical perspective is not yet sufficiently developed to adequately grasp and understand the pressing societal challenges in Europe and beyond. Criticism of the Bordering approach aims at insufficient conceptualization and under-complexity and has recently led to a broadening of the analytical perspective, for example in Critical Border Studies (Parker et al. 2009; Parker/Vaughan-Williams 2012) or Cultural Border Studies (Gerst et al. 2018; Weier et al. 2018). Both currents attempt to analytically break down Bordering processes and to comprehend their various interlinked dimensions.

This further development, which has been observed for almost a decade, points to a complexity shift in border studies, insofar as border (space) phenomena are attempted to be understood in their complexity and relationality.

This objective draws from the understanding that borders do not manifest themselves through the unambiguous setting of dichotomous orders, the unambiguous separation of only a few actors, or on the territorial periphery of national societies. In recent border studies, borders are rather understood as results and crystallization points of multi-layered formations resulting from the (situational) interaction of different actors, activities, bodies, objects, knowledge and which are changeable (Amilhat Szary/Giraut 2015; Brambilla 2015; Hess 2018; Weier et al. 2018; Gerst et al. 2018). The concept of Border Complexities encompasses such dynamic constellations, which either cause or result from borders.

They are at the centre of the interdisciplinary project and will be conceptualised using different analytical approaches and discussed using empirical examples. For this purpose, a carefully coordinated series of workshops to enable a structured and interdisciplinary examination of a recent development in border studies, will be carried out.


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