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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Phantom Borders - Real Boundaries

Phantom Borders – Real Boundaries. European Experiences after 1989 through a Global Perspective

The KOSMOS Summer University "Phantom Borders – Real Boundaries. European Experiences after 1989 through a Global Perspective" took place from the 31st of August till the 12th of September 2015 at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Phantom-Borders will bring the individual networks and various disciplines together and expand them into an international core area at Humboldt-Universität.

The KOSMOS Summer University 2015 is dedicated to two central fields of research that have become highly topical issues: The first topic, Phantom-borders continues research started by the competence network Phantom Borders in Eastern and Central Europe, which is occupied with the reappearance, under entirely different social conditions, of lines of division – usually former imperial borders – that lost their political meaning long ago.

In contrast to essentializing concepts, here two questions stand in the foreground: why are people consciously or subconsciously resorting to demarcations that have long since disappeared and for what reasons may these borders become visible in structures and discourses at varying times? With this approach, it is possible to critically analyze contemporary ways of perceiving social conflict, like the present discussion of a "divided Ukraine".

The idea of Phantom Borders thus responds to experiences of deep societal change and analyzes social practices in which the search for new social positions, affiliations, and orientations becomes visible. At the same time, European societies, particularly the EU, are having an impact on the very real experiences of new forms of drawing boundaries. Although it is usual in academic discourse to speak of the lessening significance of the classic nation state, or territorial state, and thus of its borders and the methods of control that it used to exercise, this does not mean that barriers and borders have vanished altogether. On the contrary, it is becoming clear that there are new forms of control and new efforts to regulate immigration. Given the current glut of wars and crises, there is increasing discussion across the globe about strategies for effective border security and for dealing with refugees. Perceptions of hermetically sealed barriers thus remain present in a modified form.

The KOSMOS Summer University will bring these fields of enquiry together: the issue of the presence in everyday life and in social interaction of borders that were thought to have disappeared alongside the establishment of new techniques and practices for defining new borders. The scope of this research is not limited to Europe and European attitudes, but also necessarily deals with the global processes that rebound on Europe.