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Borders in a Transnational Perspective. East Central Europe in Global Comparison

Borders in a Transnational Perspective. East Central Europe in Global Comparison

Matthias Middell (Centre for Advanced Study, University of Leipzig), Frank Hadler (Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe, University of Leipzig), Steffi Franke (Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe, University of Leipzig)
Leipzig (G)
From - Until
19.04.2007 -
Franke, Steffi

Is it scientifically profitable to look at European and especially East Central European border regions from the perspective of global history? Global comparisons and transnational approaches remain in the research on border regimes still exceptions [1], they can be found more frequently on the field of migration and diaspora research, which partially also investigate the role of borders. The workshop aims at developing common perspectives and common conceptions for the research about (post)colonial, (post)imperial and (post)socialist constellations in different world regions, taking into consideration and further developing the potentials of “inner-European” comparisons. Admittedly this is an experiment, as a result of which we hope to discover new criteria for comparison but also to develop a better understanding of individual case studies. Starting point for these efforts is the establishment of a project on East Central European border regimes in the context of the Leipzig research focus on global history.

The development of borders in East Central Europe is considerably influenced by imperial history. This is the case not only concerning the history of the Habsburg, the German, the Russian and the Ottoman empire, but can also - mutatis mutandis - be stated in respect to the role of the Soviet Union. Its break-down after 1989 resulted the re-negotiation of territorial patterns. Thus in this region border regimes emerged which can’t precisely be described as nation state boundaries, but they act as well as historically as in the current development as zones of security and of transition, as frontiers, in which the relationship between “Ins” and “Outs” varies depending on the specific nature of actors and problems concerned. The manifold uncertainties in these areas in the now enlarged European Union can be followed in the history of border security, the histories of migration, of smuggling and of cultural transfers in the border regions.

Taking this into consideration scholars specialized in different world regions, including East Central Europe, Latin and North America, Africa and Asia, are invited to develop answers to the question, how borders and border regimes in (post)imperial, (post)colonial and (post)socialist situations can specifically characterized, how the relevant territorial patterns were frequently transformed, how actors concerned coped with these hybrid situations and how this could plausibly be described. Thus East Central Europe can be put in the context of global developments as well as current processes as at the external border of the EU can be approached in a historical perspective.

The following questions can be formulated as guidelines:

1. Which specific historical constellations can be observed concerning the border regimes in the case studies? When does a transformation from frontier to boundary take place, which factors are involved in the process of change? Which actors and institutions participate in this process?

2. How can the borders and border regimes be classified? How can the relation between internal and external borders of the investigated units be described?

3. Which border regimes did the colonial powers develop in their realms? Which effects did the colonial history of the establishment of borders have on the nation building and the specific border regimes after the decolonization period? Which patterns of the establishment and implementation of border regimes do until today play a significant role in the postcolonial situation?

The workshop will base on comparison and shall relate different case studies to each other. Thus we invite contributions which reflect on the questions and hypothesis formulated above in a historical case, but also those who comparatively approach borders in different world regions.

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words in English until February 28, 2007 and any inquiries to Steffi Franke (
For more information e.g. a full version of the workshop conception, please also refer to

[1] cf. e.g.. Walter D. Mognolo: Local histories/global designs : coloniality, subaltern knowledges, and border thinking, Princeton, NJ [u.a.] 2000; Becker, Joachim; Komlosy, Andrea: Grenzen weltweit. Zonen, Linien, Mauern im historischen Vergleich. Wien 2004.


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Steffi Franke
Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe
University of Leipzig
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