Call for Papers: Minorities, Migration and Memory in East European Borderlands (1945-present)

Bewerbungsschluss: 15. März 2019

Conference: Minorities, Migration and Memory in East European Borderlands (1945-present), 24 – 26 September 2019 in Warsaw, organized by the DFG/NCN – Project “Jews and Germans in Polish Collective Memory” at the Nordost Institut (IKGN e.V.) and the German Historical Institute Warsaw.

Deadline: March 15, 2019

Located in the periphery of one country and in the proximity of another, borderlands form crossroads of different political systems and cultural spheres. Subjected to competing interests of the bordering states, most borderlands share a troubled past with shifting borders and changing rulers.

Due to their contested character, the population´s loyalty and sense of belonging constitute sensitive and disputed topics. Thus aggressive nationalism including rejection and exclusion of the (often imagined) “Other” influenced borderland identities. Conflicts between ethnic or cultural groups and the repression of minorities are a common feature of many borderlands.
At the same time, borderlands were and are home to various languages and dialects, religions and ethnicities, creating diverse and entangled cultures. Their function of cross-border communicators, and thus translators between the interior and exterior, further enhances pluralism and flexibility.
Certainly, the nature of the border determines the landscapes of borderlands. As long as the border is permeable, borderlands are places of trade, transfer and transnational influence. In cases of closed borders, borderlands resemble fortified toeholds with massive military presence and control of the population.
Borderlands seem to be strongly determined by dualities, as for instance the relation between two empires, between center and periphery, the two sides of the border, or its open or closed status, between majorities and minorities. However to study borderlands, we need to grasp the complexity that evolves from the entanglement of these different dynamics. Interpretative framework of a single group or society as well as a focus on a single duality fail to explain historical processes in borderlands.
We suggest to study borderlands as places of cultural, political and social entanglement, with ever changing dynamics of communication and circulation. Moreover, we interpret borderlands as heterotopian places that might at times adapt to hegemonial discourse but often rather challenge them.
Our conference thus aims to discuss approaches towards borderlands that take transregional perspectives and focus on dynamics of entanglement, disentanglement and transfer. Observing landscapes and storylines over time and in various regions we aspire to identify the Eigensinn of borderlands - dynamics of how people relate to the border, the other side of the border, the
borderland as region and the respective center. Looking for influential factors and patterns, we are particularly interested in similar dynamics that develop in different regions at different times.
For this purpose we invite scholars from all disciplines who focus on borderland topics in the region of Eastern and Central Eastern Europe and the post-war period until today (1945-2018). Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Borderland identities between separation and suture
  • Nationalism and regionalism
  • Inclusion, exclusion and repression
  • Border shift and association with changing powers
  • Cultural heritage and landscapes of memory
  • Borderland biographies
  • Multiethnicity, multilinguality, multireligiosity
  • Center-periphery relations and the Eigensinn of peripheries
  • Forced migration, work migration and multiple citizenship
  • Gender and childhood in borderlands
  • Borderlands in literature

We invite abstracts of 300 words by March 15, 2019. Please include a short bio as well and send it to the following addresses: k.steffen(at), i.hansen(at) and leiserowitz(at) Selected participants will be notified in late April 2019.

For invited participants, accommodation and travel costs will be covered. We aim to publish selected papers after the conference.