Living in European Borderlands

Living in European Borderlands

Elisabeth Boesen / Gregor Schnuer, Research project “Cross border residence. Identity experience and integration processes in the Greater Region (CB-RES)”, University of Luxembourg
From - Until
20.11.2014 - 22.11.2014
Conf. Website
Gregor Schnuer, Research project “Cross border residence. Identity experience and integration processes in the Greater Region (CB-RES)”, Universität Luxemburg

The workshop “Living in European Borderlands” held at the University of Luxembourg and organised by Elisabeth Boesen and Gregor Schnuer as part of the research project “Cross border residence. Identity experience and integration processes in the Greater Region (CB-RES)”, aimed to bring together scholars working on European borderlands, with a specific focus on everyday practices related to living in the vicinity of a national border. The programme featured contributions from various disciplines: geography, history, anthropology, sociology, politics and literary sciences. Overall, the workshop delivered a selection of particular cases and examples of borders, borderlands and various practices, collectively contributing towards an overall understanding of the multifariousness of borderlands, both contemporary and historical.

The conference began with some introductory words by the Dean of the Faculty for Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education of the University of Luxembourg Georg Mein, followed by an opening statement by Elisabeth Boesen (CB-RES Project-Leader). She introduced the CB-RES project and Luxembourg’s rather unique placement in Europe as a very particular borderland, featuring high levels of cross-border mobility and providing several, diverse national borders, rather than the typical national dichotomy.

She continued by stating that the workshop, by focussing specifically on everyday life and practices in borderlands, tries to address three ‘problems’ of borderland studies more generally: first, interdisciplinarity; second, the focus on particular forms of mobility, and thirdly, the predilection to focus exclusively on mobility across borders when looking at borderlands. The chosen topics reflected these concerns, combining multiple disciplinary backgrounds, various and diverse everyday practices, and including papers looking at cross-border mobility and sedentary practices.

Thursday afternoon, the first stream, entitled “Commuting and Border-Crossing”, began with a paper by LUDIVINE MARTIN (Esch), who, drawing on data of persons employed in Luxembourg, provided a quantitative insight, showing that duration, distance, mode of transport, gender and nationality all significantly influenced stress and fatigue of commuting. BIRTE NIENABER, ISABELLE PIGERON-PIROTH and URSULA ROOS (Luxembourg) delivered both a quantitative overview of residential migration from Luxembourg into surrounding regions, and supplemented this by relevant results of a qualitative study, showing complexities of both the motivations for relocating and for selecting particular villages. The third paper of the stream, by EVA ZIMMERMANN (Berlin) provided a historical example of cross-border labour streams in connection with the spa resort Baden Baden in the 19th century, showing the various relationships, especially between the local population and migrant labour, craftsmen, and merchants. KEIU TELVE (Tartu) wrapped up the stream with a paper on Estonian cross-border commuting to Finland, showing how both the financial consequences of higher salaries earned by one spouse and the differently experienced distance from home impact close relationships. The stream provided a diverse range of methodological approaches and data (large datasets, narrative interviews, semi-structured interviews, historical documents and sources), but also showcased the diversity of commuting practices, highlighting various facets of border crossing.

The first stream was followed by the keynote, given by DEVAN JAGODIC (Trieste), head of the Slovene Research Institute (SLORI). In this presentation he gave a detailed account of several examples of cross-border residential mobility, particularly along the Slovene-Italian border, to explore the question of how this phenomenon, where people relocate a short distance across a national border, often maintaining close everyday ties (e.g. employment) in the country of origin, should be theoretically framed. He argued that cross-border residential migration is both part of a suburbanisation process and a form of transnational migration. Regarding it as both of these, so he argued, this movement across borders should also be understood as both debordering and rebordering.

Friday morning, the second stream, “(De-)Bordering”, began with ANDREW TOMPKINS (Berlin), who delivered a paper showing first results from a research project on cross-border contact in the domains of work and travel in the Rhine and Oder-Neisse borderlands during the 1970s that is particularly concerned with the question of how Europeanization has developed along multiple, sometimes contradictory trajectories. KATARZYNA STOKLOSA (Sønderborg) continued the stream by showing how the ‘westward shift’ of Eastern European regions results in a ‘debordering’ along the former external EU borders, which, through the EU enlargement, have become inner EU borders. She continued arguing that the eastern external border of the enlarged EU is seeing a ‘rebordering’ as the Eastern and Central Eastern European borders are continuously shifting. The final contribution to the stream was made by NILS MÜLLER (Dortmund), who explored the compelling question of ‘Why should people become mobile because a border opens?’ offering a model for the process by which people change their practices and routines. He showed that an open border per se is not a compelling reason for people to change their daily lives, but that this process happens gradually.

Stream three, entitled ‘Cross-Border Relationships’, began with ROBERT KNIPPSCHILD (Dresden), showing both some quantitative data on the role of the border in the self-assessed quality of life along the German-Polish border, and the impact on local infrastructure (such as schools) by the ascension of Poland to the EU in these national peripheries along this border, noting the diverse effects of EU integration. The second presentation saw MARTIN KLATT (Sønderborg) discussing the possibility of reimagining historical conflict as basis for cross-border cooperation, by looking at the example of the ‘Dybbøl 2014’ project in Germany and Denmark. He argued that, in many ways, this project did not address issues of unfamiliarity and indifference, instead appealing almost exclusively to persons who can already be described as ‘transnational’. COSMIN RADU (Bristol) finished the stream, offering a comparative view of ‘border regimes’ at the Romanian-Serbian border, juxtaposing Romanian socialist and post-socialist border practices.

Following the third stream, the workshop participants undertook a short tour of the German-Luxembourgish borderland, including visits to two villages visibly affected by various forms of cross-border mobility (Wincheringen and Perl) and a brief stop in the Luxembourgish village of Schengen. The afternoon of the conference reconvened in Montenach, in France, for the fourth stream on ‘Cross-Border Residential Mobility.’ This stream, the topic of which closely connects to the research interest of the CB-RES project, was started by GARANCE CLEMENT (Créteil), who presented results from research along the Franco-Belgian border near Lille, a border featuring high levels of cross-border mobility. She concluded that cross-border residential migration highlights local disparities, both along national lines (i.e. housing prices) and socio-economic lines, showing that this migration is available and attractive to particular socio-economic groups. TAMÁS HARDI (Budapest) followed by discussing the Slovak-Hungarian border, focussing on the particularity of the cross-border suburbanisation around Bratislava, where residential migrants from Slovakia include members of the Hungarian ethnic-minority, each of these groups having distinct and asymmetrical relationships across the border. JAROSŁAW JAŃCZAK (Frankfurt Oder) gave a detailed summary of three German cities along the German-Polish border, exploring the ways in which these three cases differed substantially in their reaction to the influx of Polish cross-border residents, in part, so he argued, due to different policies that play out into different political practice. The stream concluded with GREGOR SCHNUER (Luxembourg) presenting results from the CB-RES project, comparing interview data of two autochthons from a small border village affected by cross-border residential mobility, arguing that their accounts of this place (the village) and their different understandings of its future, shows the limitations of studying borderlands with a narrow focus on mobility and transnationalism, instead requiring a more varied approach.

Saturday morning saw the final stream, “Constructing National Identities in Borderlands”. LESLEY PENNÉ (Brussel) began by showing the various ways in which the role of the border appeared as a theme in the literature of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, differentiating political and cognitive borders, arguing that these are addressed in the struggles to construct identities (individual and collective). NINA JEBSEN (Sønderborg), looking at visual propaganda, offered a comparison of five border regions that held plebiscites on territorial national belonging after World War I, illustrating the distinct themes used to construct, reaffirm or subvert national identities. PETER POLAK-SPRINGER (Doha) explored youth tourism in the Upper Silesian border region between 1922 and 1950, showing the contested nature of youth summer camps, and the political attempts to construct national identities amongst a nationally indifferent population. Concluding the stream, and the workshop, ARVI SEPP (Antwerp/Brussel) explored German-Baltic literature, arguing that this particular group, understanding itself as ‘culture bearers’ (Kulturträger), increasingly struggled with its self-determination and identity in light of the Russification, growing Estonian national self-determination, and the increasingly nationalistic Germany in the second half of the 19th century.

The workshop was concluded by some closing remarks by ELISABETH BOESEN and GREGOR SCHNUER (Luxembourg). Elisabeth Boesen noted that, besides the interdisciplinary selection of topics, every presentation offered an interesting and inspiring case of life in borderlands. Moreover, she noted that the presentations, taken together, show how diverse borders are and to what extent they change, both historically over time, and contemporaneously along the length of particular national borders. Taken together, this shows that it is, in fact, quite difficult to make generalizable statements about borders and borderlands. Nonetheless, this has not lead to any absence in fruitful and meaningful exchanges on the topic. Gregor Schnuer explicitly pointed out the healthy and consistent discussion of the papers, seeing it as an indication for the success of the interdisciplinary selection, allowing everyone to contribute and engage across disciplinary boundaries. He also pointed to the high quality of contributions throughout, particularly noting the high standard of papers from Masters- and PhD-students that presented.

Overall, the workshop brought together a large selection of methods, of conceptual approaches, of examples of borders, of historical and contemporary cases. The narrow and specific focus on living in European borderlands brought these together in a common frame, fostering exchanges and discussions about the ways in which we can research and better understand life in these particular areas.

Conference Overview:

Elisabeth Boesen (Luxembourg), Introduction

Stream I – Commuting and Border-crossing

Ludivine Martin / Julien Licheron (Esch), Commuting and the Well-Being at Work: An Empirical Analysis in the Cross-Border Region of Luxembourg

Birte Nienaber / Isabelle Pigeron-Piroth / Ursula Roos (Luxembourg), Work and Residential Cross-Border Mobilities for People Working in Luxembourg: Developments and Impacts

Eva Zimmermann (Berlin), Seasonal Cross-Border Migration in the Spa Resort of Baden-Baden during the 19th Century

Keiu Telve (Tartu), Influence of Commuting on Close Relationships: Case study of Estonian Construction Workers in Finland

Devan Jagodic (Triest), Debordering or (Re-)bordering? Cross-border Residential Mobility in the Frame of the European Union: Theoretical Assumptions, Case-studies, Side Effects

Stream II - (De-)Bordering

Andrew Tompkins (Berlin), Building Blocs: Germans and their Neighbors in the 1970s

Katarzyna Stoklosa (Sønderborg), Processes of De-bordering and Re-bordering in Europe

Nils Müller (Dortmund), (Re-)producing National Borders in Everyday Life

Stream III – Cross-border Relationships

Robert Knippschild (Dresden), Cross-border Interrelations and Quality of Life in the Saxon-Polish Border Area

Martin Klatt (Sønderborg), Dybbøl 2014 – Constructing Familiarity by Remembrance?

Cosmin Radu (Bristol), Dwelling and Crossing the Frontier: Landscape and (Im)mobility at the Romanian-Serbia Border

Bus Journey: “Visiting the Borderland”

Stream IV – Cross-border Residential Mobility (Montenach/France)

Garance Clement (Paris), A qualitative approach to cross-border residential migrations. The case of Lille Metropole and the Franco-Belgian border

Tamás Hardi (Budapest), Asymmetries and Territorial Disparities in the Slovak-Hungarian Cross-Border Mobility, with Special Regard to the Cross-Border Suburbanisation of Bratislava

Jaroslaw Janczak (Frankfurt an der Oder), Cross-border Urbanism on the German-Polish Border. Between Spatial Deboundarization and Social (Re-)frontierization

Gregor Schnuer (Luxembourg), Living Apart – Living Together: Residential Migration in Rural Villages along the German-Luxembourg Border

Stream V – Constructing National Identities in Borderlands

Lesley Penné (Brussels), Regional and cognitive Borders in the Literature of the German-speaking Community of Belgium

Nina Jebsen (Sønderborg), Remaining Faithful – Visual Propaganda within European Borderlands (1920/21)

Stream V – Constructing National Identities in Borderlands

Peter Polak-Springer (Doha), Nationalize and Regionalize: Youth Tourism in the German and Polish Parts of the Upper Silesian Border Area, 1922-1950

Arvi Sepp (Antwerp/Brussels), Germanness and Baltic Borderlands: The Discourse on ‘Kulturträgertum’ in Nineteenth-Century German-Baltic Literature

Elisabeth Boesen / Gregor Schnuer (Luxembourg), Closing Remarks

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