Conference reports A world conference on the border
The first world conference on borders, under the title Post-Cold War Borders – Global Trends and Regional Responses was held in Joensuu, Finland and St. Petersburg, Russia and in the borderland in-between on June 9-13, 2014.
Published on balticworlds.com on augusti 4, 2014
The first world conference on borders, under the title Post-Cold War Borders – Global Trends and Regional Responses was held in Joensuu, Finland and St. Petersburg, Russia and in the borderland in-between on June 9-13, 2014. The event was organized in co-operation between the Association for Borderland Studies, ABS, and VERA, the Centre for Russian and Border Studies at the University of Eastern Finland. Some 450 participants from around 50 countries and various academic disciplines took part in the conference, but a considerable number of people could not attend because of visa requirements for Russia and of monetary restrictions.
While special sessions ware devoted to African borders, a hitherto rather neglected area, the location and geopolitical situation obviously called for special attention to the boundary situations of the post-Soviet Union states. In the plenary sessions in Finland the “Ukrainian situation” was cautiously mentioned but not addressed, obviously in order not to stir a debate putting Russian and Ukrainian participants into distress before entering Russian territory.
The St. Petersburg part of the conference was hosted by the European University and the Centre for Independent Social Research. With current developments in Russia there was a fear of political involvement, but the conference could be carried out without disturbances. Only one participant was denied access to Russian territory, a Ukrainian citizen.
Border studies have a long history, dating back to the writings of Friedrich Ratzel, Rudolf Kjellén and Georg Simmel around 1900, but the unscientific abuse of geopolitics by the authoritarian régimes of the 1930’s, World War II and the Cold War led to a long Berührungsangst, (approx. anxiety of touching upon a subject) finally ending with the opening of closed inter-state borders and the creation new ones in Europe and Central Asia after 1989, leading to a surge in the interest in how a political line on the ground (or in the mind) will affect people’s lives.
With a strong historical basis in human geography and political science, the study of borders and boundaries (with different interpretations) has spread into a number of disciplines; anthropology, history, sociology and the study of religion, to name a few. Border studies, or rather, cross-border studies, are interdisciplinary and thus invite to academic transgression.
The first world conference was a bold venture with its border transgression, but it was well organized and it resulted in a number of new contacts and inspirations. Homepage: http://www.uef.fi/en/abs2014world/etusivu